IF there’s one thing sports journalists like writing about more than an athlete’s performance’s on the big stage, it is their departure from it.
Year after year, men and women who have given us great days face the same persistent questions about their career’s endpoint from members of the fourth estate, who can be all too quick to see them off in their rush to lionise.
Take Padraic Joyce, for example. The Galway forward made his championship debut back in 1998 but found himself quizzed on his retirement plans long before he hit his 30s largely because he began to sport some silver flecks around the ears.
Brendan Cummins has yet to sprout his first grey hair but the Tipperary goalkeeper was a feature of our championship summers three years before Joyce came along and has had to contend with the same debate about his longevity.
Last winter, the murmurs grew even louder than normal.
With a second All-Ireland medal in his possession and 15 years service put down, Cummins didn’t interject to douse the rumours of retirement but then again there was a good reason for that.
“No, it’s an unusual thing,” he said. “You can’t go around saying, ‘I want to play again next year’. You have to wait for the phone call like everybody else. You have no divine right to be called into the Tipperary panel.
“So, when Declan (Ryan) rang me back in November at some stage, I was as happy to get the phone call as I was in (1995) when Babs rang me to say he was giving me a start against Waterford.
“That told me that I was ready for another go at this thing and that I still have the enthusiasm and hunger to achieve something.”
That it was Ryan and not Liam Sheedy making the call was a story in itself. Tipp were a shell of themselves when Sheedy took over, a one-time contender that had slipped into bad ways. By the time he left, the county had restocked the pantry with two Munster titles, a league crown and an All-Ireland victory as well.
But Sheedy lifted individuals as well as the collective. By the time Babs Keating’s stint in charge ended, Cummins and Eoin Kelly were at the lowest ebbs of their inter-county careers but the goalkeeper acknowledges the debt he and others owe to Sheedy whilst stressing the positives of a new regime.
“When the dust settles and the new management comes in, you park what’s in the past. Declan, Michael (Gleeson) and Tommy (Dunne) coming in have brought new ideas, brought huge energy into the squad.
“They’ve brought that expertise of having won an All-Ireland in 2001, the two boys, and they know the pitfalls of what happens the following year.”
Tipp’s reservoir of young and successful talent should prove to be another potent garlic clove in the attempt to fend off the slump that followed 2001.
The first step in that process begins against familiar foes in Thurles on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a massive game. Cork will be going in as underdogs but we know the experience the Cork lads have,” says Cummins.
“We only need to draw on the video of 2010 to get our minds back as well. Those ingredients means there’s only going to be a puck of the ball between us.”
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