Hurling isn't the same without the Cork fans there says Patrick Horgan

'The crowd bring a different level to the whole day, the excitement, the nerves, the butterflies...'
Hurling isn't the same without the Cork fans there says Patrick Horgan

Patrick Horgan of Cork signs autographs for young fans during the 2019 championship. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

AS legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein once observed: 'Football without fans is nothing'.

Cork hurling captain Patrick Horgan knows exactly where he was coming from. Even though there have been plenty of disappointments across his career, he appreciates the special bond with the Rebel faithful more than ever after a winter championship behind closed doors in 2020.

"I'd be lying if said it was the same because the crowd are what makes the day," he explained at the online press conference to launch the county's new sponsorship deal with Sports Direct. 

Playing in front of 40 or 50,000 is the reason you can't sleep the night before, the reason you do everything really because in front of a crowd like that is the last place you want to be lacking something.

"You're going in to play against the best of the best and you have to be prepared, don't be caught out like. We all love hurling, and we'd all play hurling in front of no one forevermore just to play the game, but the crowd bring a different level to the whole day, the excitement, the nerves, the butterflies."

Horgan, like the rest of us, was speaking at a preseason event when the throw-in for the new campaign had yet to be clarified. When the games do begin, supporters will be absent. Indeed the whole inter-county scene could again take place in empty stadia.

Patrick Horgan at the announcement of Sports Direct’s new five-year sponsorship deal with Cork GAA. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Patrick Horgan at the announcement of Sports Direct’s new five-year sponsorship deal with Cork GAA. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

"It would be good for everyone to get some hurling in good weather. Because of the time of year last season I don't think it was electric, speed-wise, but that would change with better weather and better light.

"Hopefully, it doesn't get pushed out the same as last year, and I know they can't do anything about it, but players are staying ready all through the year can burn you out. Players are at home, training by themselves and don't know if they're over-training or under-training.

"I wouldn't like it if it rambled on into an end of year championship because players are keeping fit and watching their diet."

What if he was given the choice between a summer behind closed doors or an autumn series with crowds?

"I know the speed of the game will be higher in the summer and you'll get more quality games. I know watching other games on telly last year the level of speed was dropped because of the conditions and I think during the summer that'll be through the roof again. You'll get those exciting, high-scoring games.

"The excitement of having a crowd there is appealing though because that's what keeps you awake for an extra five minutes at night before, thinking about your movements the next day, what could work and what mightn't work. 

"That's all part of it and it's unreal for players to have butterflies, to get the escort from the hotel to the ground is an unbelievable buzz. 

"I don't know which I'd prefer."

Patrick Horgan of Cork scores his side's first goal in the 2019 league game away to Limerick. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Patrick Horgan of Cork scores his side's first goal in the 2019 league game away to Limerick. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Certainly, at 33 in May, he doesn't want a whole year to slip by.

"It's a way of life for hurlers. Come in, back out the door to train, all for the love of the game. If the championship had to be behind closed doors again I'm all for that because you can't just pass up a year of your career in hurling. Anytime we can get a game of hurling I'm all for it."

By the time hurling resumes, new rules could be in place to curb cynical fouling. Despite operating at the cutting edge of the forward line, Horgan isn't in favour of any additional cards or a sin bin.

"I wouldn't be interested in a player getting a sin bin or a black card. 

I think we're trying to change way too much about the game we all fell in love with. 

"I don't understand why we're trying to bring in this yellow, red, black, pink... there's all sorts of every card now. You'd have to do a double-take to see 'am I sent off for five minutes or 10 minutes?' If a foul is worthy of a yellow card or a red card fair enough but not a sin-bin.

"The goals are probably up if anything in the championship overall and if anything happens at one end it can happen at the other, so it all levels out over the course of the season. I could sit here as a forward and say if I get pulled down the back should be sent off but your own team are probably going to end up doing that at some stage of the year as well.

"It comes around for everyone but that's just the game. I wouldn't change it."

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