Sharpshooter Deane cool as Cats in firing line

AWAY from the heat and light of Thurles and Croke Park, Joe Deane’s relaxation still has a sporting tinge. “If I had a Saturday to myself I’d get up to watch a Tri-Nations game, keep an eye on the soccer or Aussie Rules during the day, and maybe the American golf then around 8 o’clock in the evening, to take you through to 11; that’d be a good Saturday.”

But that’s for other Saturdays. Today it’s different: packing the bag for Dublin, and the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny. Picking out the hurleys for tomorrow. Stowing away that famous yellow helmet.

Actually, just how old is that yellow helmet? “I got it when I was a young fella, my brother bought it for me. I wore it all the way through, but when Mycro came up with a new helmet a few years ago I changed. I upgraded. The old one was fairly battered at that stage.”

Deane debuted for Cork back in 1996, when Limerick hammered the Leesiders in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It’s been a long career since then, with plenty of sunshine and silverware, but that didn’t soften the blow when Deane didn’t make the Cork team for the Munster championship game with Tipperary.

“When you come towards the latter part of your career you want to be part of the big days. When you’re training in the winter months it’s not as enjoyable, and what keeps you going is ‘think of the first week of June and playing Tipperary’, or a Munster final. So it was disappointing not to be playing, but I was delighted for the lads.

“Cathal (Naughton) had been on the panel a couple of years, Kevin Canty was flying in training, Paudie (O’Sullivan) was doing well: they deserved to play. I made myself available to talk to them if they wanted and told them I was delighted for them; Niall Mac wasn’t involved and he did the same. It shows there’s great unity there, a great bond in the team.”

Deane returned for the Dublin game. He scored the vital goal that proved the difference between the sides, but a narrow win didn’t quieten the sceptics after that match.

“You could sense the negativity, fellas saying some players were finished, on websites or on radio shows. You could sense it. What that did was it made us drive on against Galway. I don’t think we’ve anything to prove to anyone, but maybe we wanted to prove something to ourselves.

“We hadn’t won a big game in 2007: we were beaten twice by Waterford and Tipp in the qualifiers, and then beaten by Tipp this year in the championship. So we wanted to prove to ourselves we could do it.”

The win over Galway is already in the pantheon of great Cork victories. Deane agrees that it was special.

“It was incredible, the buzz afterwards. I suppose we hadn’t had that feeling in a couple of years. We beat Clare in 1999 and Kilkenny in 1999, when it wasn’t expected, and beating Tipperary in Killarney in 2004, then Kilkenny . . . those were great wins, but given the build-up to the Galway game, and then they got the couple of goals, Donal Óg (getting sent off) , going in two points down and facing the breeze, we knew we were up against it. It was one of my best days with Cork.

There was a hangover though. Cork were slow out of the blocks against Clare, and at one stage were nine points down.

“Against Galway there was nothing expected, and we were really up for it. And it always takes two or three days to get over every game, mentally and physically, and we were nervous enough about the Clare game.”

Deane pays genuine tribute to tomorrow’s opponents.

“Kilkenny are a super team. They come from a proud county, like ourselves, they’re driving for three-in-a-row, and it’s not their fault if they have relatively easy games. And in fairness, Offaly and Wexford did pretty well afterwards, so maybe it’s that Kilkenny are just that good.

“When you’re involved with Cork, most days when you go out you’d believe you have as good a chance as anyone. We’d have no aversion to playing Kilkenny, you want to play against the best and we’ve had good battles against them over the years. There’s never been a whole pile between us so there’s no reason for us to be afraid of them.”



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