While he is only 21 since last September, the level of churn in the Cork City squad over the past few seasons has meant that Ronan Hurley is one of the longest-serving Rebel Army players after Mark McNulty and Gearóid Morrissey.
That relative seniority saw the Schull native captain the side given the captain’s armband on occasion in pre-season and manager Colin Healy has rewarded the left-back with the number 3 shirt for the coming season.
When Alan Bennett returned to the club in 2015, he re-assumed ownership of the number 3 that he had previously had from 2003-07. Now, while Hurley isn’t reading too much into his switch from 14, he is keen to make his mark as City try to return to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
“I suppose I wouldn’t look too deeply into the numbers,” he says, “though obviously I’ve big boots to fill from Benno as well.
“I think it’s just up to myself to take the chance if I get it and make sure that my standards in every game are as high as they can be.”
Hurley started at left-back in the first pre-season game, against St Patrick’s Athletic at Blarney, but away to Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium he was chosen at centre-back alongside Cian Coleman.
He was back on the left for the beginning of City’s win at Waterford but finished that match in the centre, partnering Steven Beattie, and came on at left-back in the final game, against Finn Harps.
Having played at centre-back in his younger days, he is happy to play wherever he may be chosen by Healy.
“It was good,” he says.
“I actually played centre-back when I was U19 so Colin knew that I could play there.
“I stepped in centre-back against Rovers and it was a good test. I find that it’s a mental challenge as much as a physical one – at left-back you’re required to run up and down the flank whereas in the centre it’s more watching people’s movement.
“I thought I did well enough. At centre-half, you tend to get more of the ball too as you’re in the centre of the pitch so I enjoyed that aspect of it as well.
“I don’t mind – if Colin wants to play me centre-back or left-back, I’ll do whatever he wants!”