Daniel Kearney a pivotal figure in Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s Cork jigsaw

Midfielder relishing the return to Croke Park as Rebels prepare to lock horns with great rivals Tipperary

Cork’s Daniel Kearney in action against Limerick’s Paul Browne. “Thankfully Jimmy saw enough in them to think that I would be a good intercounty hurler.” Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork’s Daniel Kearney in action against Limerick’s Paul Browne. “Thankfully Jimmy saw enough in them to think that I would be a good intercounty hurler.” Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 01:00

While the greyer-templed hurling followers of the land belly up to history’s buffet when it comes to Cork v Tipp, the most any of the players are interested in is nibbling around the edges. The Cork team that lines out in Croke Park on Sunday is likely to contain only six of the side that last met Tipp in championship just two summers ago. Tipp will probably only field seven who started that game.

It may be an old river but the water is fresh. Their more recent encounter in this year’s league quarter-final is the more salient reference point.

Daniel Kearney only featured off the bench two years ago but he was a driving force behind Cork’s revival in Semple Stadium at the end of March. Cork went 2-4 to 0-0 behind early on but managed to dig out a half-time lead and though they didn’t win the game, it lit a fire under what had been a fairly tepid 2014 up to then.

“We went down 10, 11 points and a lot of people thought that was curtains. If it was another team it could have been 20 or 30. We showed good character there. We were coming in after playing the Division 1B games. I suppose we didn’t have a great league really. I don’t think there was one game where we were happy . . . .

“That could have been just a bit of a hangover from the All-Ireland. We never really got going at all. We brought that into the game against Tipperary when, the first 10 minutes, they blew us out of the water. . If we’re not at the top of our game, the same thing could happen. We’re very aware of that and how important it is to start well.”

Three finals

There was an obvious reason for their poor form during the league. Cork played in three finals last year and didn’t win any of them. You spend a winter telling each other you’re okay but you never know until the time comes to show it. September was still hanging over them long into the new year.

“It was, definitely,” says Kearney. “When you’re not playing to your potential, it affects confidence. It’s tougher in training. You just have to battle through those days where you’re after playing poor. Looking back on last year, we always knew that we had the potential to play against the best teams in Ireland.

“We got a bit of confidence from the Tipperary game in the way we came back into it, and could have nicked it. And we were missing a few as well. Although we lost that day we were content with our performance.

“Coming in to the Munster final this year, there was definitely pressure on the team. That was the first game where there was real pressure. We were saying it to the lads, ‘Losing isn’t an option’. Because if we’d lost that game I don’t know where it would have left us. We were putting the pressure on ourselves to win. And that mightn’t have been a bad thing. There was no way we were going to let that game go away.”

Kearney came off the bench in that game in 2012 as a replacement for Darren Sweetnam. Cork’s midfield has ebbed and flowed in the time since but Kearney is the constant. If his size makes him an unlikely figure around which to build a midfield, his manager’s influence is clear to see.

“I definitely owe Jimmy for picking me the first time. I don’t think too many managers would have had faith in me. . . Thankfully Jimmy saw enough to think that I would be a good intercounty hurler. He went a bit against the grain with his thinking there because at the time a lot of players were big and physical and everybody was saying that that was the type of player you needed in midfield. Jimmy had his own ideas and I fitted into them.”

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