Pat Horgan still willing to bear weight of a heavy commitment
ESRI survey provides a window into the reality of life as a senior intercounty player
Pat Horgan in action against Clare’s David McInerney during this year’s Munster final at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Like a lot of players, it seems, Pat Horgan read the recent report citing the 31 hours that typically make up the inter-county players’ week and thought ‘is that all’? At times it feels more like 24 hours a day, or at least every waking hour.
Also that line about 22 per cent of players stepping away because they felt they had no chance of success; after a decade playing senior hurling with Cork, Horgan is no less motivated by the chance of success, even five years after coming within licking distance of the 2013 All-Ireland title.
He’s not entirely sure whether it’s a healthy obsession –some of his friends suggesting he’s a “psychopath” to put in the hours he does – but as long as he is fit and enjoying it he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It is more or less 24 hours a day,” says Horgan. “My friends, my family... every decision is made with hurling in mind. If something that’s planned even comes close to interrupting hurling, it’s cancelled.
“And if you count your buddies going away for a weekend, and you’re sitting at home when they’re gone because you’re training Sunday morning, and they’re gone since Friday and you’re like, ‘Hmmm, a good weekend here for me’.
“But for me, it works perfect, even though, like, a few of my buddies say, ‘Oh, you’re a psychopath, I always knew you were!’ I’m just like, ‘All the boys are doing it, I have to do it!’ As long as you can be obsessed with it. And you have to be. If at any stage it annoys you or you get sick of it, you have to leave.”
While he doesn’t believe hurling impacts on his job (he works in logistics with Crane Worldwide in Cork), Horgan does question whether it’s all sustainable, or at least how greater the commitment could possibly get.
“Like, you’re cut away from everyone. People are off having a laugh, you’re not. You only get a certain window then to have your time. You’re playing there [in a game] in a month, can’t go out. It’s nearly like, if you see a fella out, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I have it over him anyway’, you know! It’s actually annoying in a way. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is.”
That ESRI publication, Playing Senior Inter County Gaelic Games: Experiences, Realities and Consequences, also detailed some of the reasons players stop chiefly the perceived lack of chance for success. For Horgan, Cork’s all-time leading championship scorer (between league and championship he’s scored 29-761), everyone has their own definition of success.
“For us, it’s probably winning the All-Ireland. For other teams, that aren’t in the Liam MacCarthy maybe, it’s winning a different trophy or getting up to play at a higher level. Playing at the level we’re playing at, it’s challenging but if you can play at that level it’s rewarding to know that you’re able to compete with these fellas that are putting in so much time and effort themselves. And you’re competing with them, that’s exciting enough in itself.
“What I would say is that when it all finishes and a fella has to stop playing, I don’t know what that fella is going to do. We were knocked out there a couple of weeks ago with the Glen [Rovers], probably one of the worst defeats we’ve had playing with the club . . . since then fellas don’t know what to do with themselves. Because every other club is still in it, fellas training and all of that. I can imagine when you have to call time on playing, I don’t know what fellas are going to do. There’s a lot of time to be filled in there after you stop.”
Whatever about coming so close to beating eventual champions Limerick this summer (Cork losing the semi-final 3-32 to 2-31, after extra-time), the 2013 final against Clare, when Cork were seconds from victory before Clare forced the replay, and ultimately won, still clearly haunts Horgan.
“Yeah, it’s unbelievably tough, I think about that game a lot too. It’s like, the game was over, you know what I mean? And they’re not given out easily, and when you’re in the position where you’re up, time is up and he [the referee] doesn’t blow it, it feels like you’re being robbed. It feels like it’s been taken from you.
“Having said that, time was up and I remember the puck-out came and there were five or six things that happened all in Clare’s favour at the time. If even one of those things hadn’t happened, they wouldn’t have got the chance to score and that’s the way hurling is. Sometimes your luck is in and sometimes it’s not.
“And that would have set us up for the following year, we played unbelievable hurling the year after as well, before Tipp beat us in the semi-final. We were playing unbelievable hurling up until that game but we just never showed up. And it’s only the last two years that we’re kind of getting back to what we should be at really.”
And still thinking about Cork winning again, every waking hour.