Contrary to the minority, it was indeed a year of progress for the Cork hurlers; a first championship victory over Kilkenny since 2004, the unearthing of new talent in Séamus Harnedy and an end to their seven-year absence from the September showpiece.
Anthony Nash, however, isn’t blinded by a couple of complimentary stats.
The Cork goalkeeper points instead to the county’s one real ambition for 2013 — the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Fact of the matter is it wasn’t delivered upon.
Moreover, with not one piece of silverware to show for their endeavours, Nash, straddled with a pair of crutches while an infection to his right leg clears up, simply cannot fathom how pundits deemed 2013 a successful year for hurling Leeside.
“You have people coming up to you saying ye had a great year. It is a great year if you win something. Simple as that. I wouldn’t consider it a great year,” asserted the All Star custodian.
Club commitments provided a welcome distraction in the aftermath of the Clare defeat, but certain elements of the two games still gnaw away at the 29-year old, Cork’s lethargic opening on both days a particular sore.
“We started slowly in both games and you couldn’t afford to let Clare have a lead. Even in the replay we got them back, but we had an eight-point gap to bring up. When we did draw level you have used up so much energy to get back there and it does make it harder to push on.
“Listen, Clare changed their style of hurling this year. They are a fantastic team. Before this year they wouldn’t have been household names. Now they are. They will be at the top next year and hopefully we will have a chance to get back to where we were and learn from our mistakes.
“A week after the replay I had a game with the club and we went on to win the intermediate title which was a nice touch, but you are always going to be disappointed. The previous year we were in an All-Ireland semi-final, this year we were in the final so, hopefully, we might go an extra step again next year. We are back into the mix now again. All the big teams are back and we are there in the middle with everyone else.
“The experience of getting to an All-Ireland final is the positive you would take from this year. The other side of it is knowing you get can there. We knew the hard work we put it and you need breaks to go your way also. We won a couple of games there that could very easily have turned the other way. It is just hard work really. We have to bring that again next year because the Kilkennys, the Galways, the Tipperarys will be back hungrier than ever. Clare will want to defend their crown. It is going to be a hard year.”
Strengthening their hand for the 2014 edition is Kanturk club-mate Aidan Walsh, and Nash appreciates just how important an addition the towering midfielder signifies. The door though has swung both ways and Ger Cunningham’s exit represents a blow to the camp, particularly to Nash who availed of his goalkeeping expertise.
“We understand with Ger. He is just after taking on his own company. He is up and down to Dublin a lot. He found himself under pressure this year. There were rumours about him and the Limerick job, but we don’t know if they were true or not. Ger texted me after he left and said if I ever wanted anything, he would be there for me.
“Jimmy is going to drive on with what we have and we are very happy to do so. Kieran Kingston is going to step up, he would have done a lot of coaching with us last year. Obviously Ger is going to be a loss to the set-up, but Kieran is a professional man and a fantastic coach. It won’t be a hindrance to us. It won’t be used as an excuse.
“Doubling up will be tough for Aidan [Walsh],” he added. “He knows it himself. He hasn’t hurled at the top level since U21 and he knows that. His attitude is top notch.
“As a friend I am delighted. He is a fantastic guy and I’ve seen his potential on the hurling field with our club.”
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