Taylor-made Mallow defender never played underage before senior debut

Taylor-made Mallow defender never played underage before senior debut
Mattie Taylor of Cork in action against Frank Burns of Tyrone last summer at Croke Park. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

CORK senior football star Mattie Taylor will be “gutted” if the National Football League is decided off the pitch this season.

But the half-back knows that the decision on what happens to all competitions will be for the “greater good.”

“Of course if the season is decided off the field we will be gutted as we were really gunning for the game with Louth,” Taylor said.

“That home game was really going to be the game where if we put in a good performance and got the two points then that was going to seal the deal and get us back up.

“That was a win that if we could get it would really stand to us as a group, adding another string to the bow.”

The current Covid-19 crisis has left some of the country’s biggest sporting stars with time on their hands but for Taylor, the downtime has given him time to reflect on what has been a whirlwind few years for one of the county’s most solid defenders.

“Unlike a lot of the guys that make it to the senior squad I had never played for the county at underage, minor or even at U21.

“I don’t hold that against anyone for not picking me through the years as I wasn’t up to it.

“I don’t think I was the player back then that I hope I have been able to become today.”

The shutdown has given the Mallow man a chance to reflect on his career to date and re-evaluate just what it is to be a Cork footballer.

“Do you know that up to now I had never really sat back and reflected on the start of my career with Cork as when you are in it you are in the moment — but when I think back it really was a very special time for me.

“It was Peader Healy that gave me a call and asked me to come in and join the setup in 2017 without guaranteeing me anything and obviously I took the opportunity with both hands.

“I trained with the squad that year with Cork but didn’t play but we won the county with Mallow that year and that again gave me an opportunity to improve and I believe that season really stood to me.

“When I finally got my chance, let’s call it my full competitive debut, in 2018 against Louth, I was really excited and relishing the opportunity to be involved in a really professional setup - to learn new skills and to be coached at a really high level.

“I played in the league of that year (2018) mainly off the bench, but made my Championship debut against Tipperary in Thurles, coming on for the last 10 minutes.

“That was something that I had always dreamed of. It was a real proud moment for me and my family and a day I will never forget.”

After making his name in the Blood and Bandage, Taylor knows just how hard it is to stay there and is prepared to fight for a jersey that means everything to him.

“You can’t sit on your laurels in a county setup. You can’t stop developing, you can’t stop learning and you just can’t stop performing.

“The day you stop performing is the day you are sitting on the bench or even outside the bench as there are any number of very talented and dedicated players ready to take your place.

“You can’t not perform in training or in a game and having that competitiveness really makes you perform.

“We go out in an A versus B or a 15 v 15 game in training and there is skin and hair flying for that 30 minutes or that hour.

“There isn’t really any friends during those games and while I know some people may take that up the wrong way it is because we respect each other and know just how good the others are — we have to fight for our own positions.

“If you don’t fight and perform in those games you won’t get your jersey the next day — so it is really important to be competitive and in a selfish way you just have to look after yourself. Of course overall the team comes first and you have to respect that but you have to show that grit and determination and that bite in your performances. 

"That is how you hold that jersey.”

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers Round 4, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary 6/7/2019Cork vs LaoisCork's Mattie Taylor in action against Daniel O'Reilly of Laois Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers Round 4, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary 6/7/2019Cork vs LaoisCork's Mattie Taylor in action against Daniel O'Reilly of Laois Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

And has the county setup been all that the engineer thought it would be?

“To play for Cork has been everything I thought it would be and everything I hoped it would be.

“I really, really enjoy the setup. I am constantly learning and constantly challenged and I am someone that loves that challenge – whatever sport or work I engage in.

“I always went after that challenge. I just love going out training with the lads and I love going to the gym.

“I spoke about fighting for your own position and your own right to be there but I just love the collective thing as well.

“You really have to enjoy it because the amount of time that goes into it demands that.

“I don’t call it a commitment. It is much more than that.

“It is so different to normal life as when you go to training or go to games or the gym you are with 30 plus guys that really want to be there.

“It is an environment that is brilliant to be a part of and you get so much out of being involved.”

Taylor is the epitome of the modern-day footballer.

Dedicated to his craft, both on and off the field, while also carving out a very impressive career for himself.

Taylor is prepared to sacrifice more than most to make it and that is what makes him the player he is today.

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