Patience finally rewarded for Anthony Nash – Cork’s undisputed number one
Years as understudy to Donal Óg Cusack paying off now for All Star goalkeeper
Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash at Páirc Uí Rinn. “It’s a great honour to play for Cork.” Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
The last thing any player will admit before an All-Ireland final is a preference for the opposition. It’s just not part of the deal. And yet, when pressed hard on the matter, Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash suggests an almost natural sense of relief that it’s Clare he’s facing on Sunday, not Limerick – and not just because of extended family ties.
Both his uncles, Mike and Declan Nash, played for Limerick, both losing the All-Ireland finals of 1994 (to Offaly) and 1996 (to Wexford), and indeed Nash himself admits he grew up a fan of Limerick hurling first, before the blood started to run thicker than water.
Still, while Clare possibly did him a slight favour by beating Limerick in their semi-final, thus preventing any awkward family moments, Nash may well have had a preference for Clare anyway. It will be their fifth meeting this season, so nothing Clare can throw at Cork on Sunday will come as any great surprise.
“A lot of people have asked me that question,” says Nash, reflecting on playing Clare, and not Limerick. “It’s really not something I ever looked at, to be honest. Whichever team got to the final, an All-Ireland final is an All-Ireland final, and the two teams that get there deserve to be there.
“If Limerick had won the last day, we’d be going into the game thinking the same thing, that we were in for a huge battle. But I suppose Clare were deserved winners the last day.
“They played a fantastic game, and if I lose to Clare, or lose to Limerick, it won’t make much difference. Likewise if we beat either of them it’ll be just as good a feeling.”
Nash is not denying either the close ties that he still has with Limerick: he’s already taken a couple of calls from Mike and Declan Nash about what the All-Ireland final day entails.
“In fairness to them, they’re very close to the family, always have been. Even my cousin Barry (Nash) would have played in the minor semi-final the last day, and I’d always be in contact. They stay away from me at the same time because they don’t want to be in my head . . but I always enjoy when I chat to them. They’ve been through it on two occasions.
“I know I was very young at the time, but even since I’ve realised the effort and the pain that they went through. I was at both those games, and was asked before, in a player-profile, that outside of playing, what’s the hardest thing you’ve dealt with, and I said those two performances.
“As a young fella, I was very young at the time, I still would have considered them very tough. Losing last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was similar enough heartbreak for me, and it’s something that I suppose this year has helped us all.”
Nash is then asked when exactly his allegiance shifted firmly over to Cork.
“I suppose when they gave me the shout to be a Cork minor,” he says with a smile. “No, I suppose when the uncles stopped playing. I was actually born and christened in Limerick myself, but when the uncles stopped playing that kind of faded away. I was always red blood, really, is what I’m trying to say. It’s a huge honour for me to be playing for Cork.”
Indeed Nash singles out the moment he first walked into the Cork senior training, in the summer of 2005, as the ultimate hurling experience, and what carried him through the next six years as number two to Donal Óg Cusack, until his time finally arrived last summer.
“I remember Brian Corcoran was the first man over to welcome me to the panel, and I nearly fainted at the sight of him. I couldn’t imagine a young fella, from Kanturk, coming up here and Brian Corcoran shaking his hand, welcoming him into the same panel. It took me about half an hour to get togged out. I thought it was one of the nicest things that a fella could have done, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Nash also pays tribute to former Cork goalkeeper Ger Cunningham, now part of Jimmy Barry Murphy’s backroom team, as the man who first developed his goalkeeping skills, especially given his puck-outs “were rather shocking, to be honest”.
Now, the 28-year-old Nash is considered the best in the business – reflected by his 2012 All Star. He reckons he’s got plenty more to learn, that there’s no such thing as goalkeeping perfection, and why sometimes he’s not even sure which of the nine hurls he normally brings to a game is the one he’ll actually use.
“It’s like picking the team,” he says. “Whoever plays well at training is the one used. But there’s always a number one, and two. They’re in hiding at the moment, and don’t come out until the week of the game.
“I’d be very fussy when it comes to hurleys. I think you have to be, as a goalkeeper, because if you’re not happy with your hurley, inside in goals, there’s something up. Basically I always have two puck-out hurls just in case we need to use them and then I’d have the shot-stopper. Because you’re always afraid that a team, if you’re two points up, get a 21 with the last puck of the game.”