Former Sarsfields and Wexford star Éanna Martin believes that the goalkeeping education Patrick Collins has received working alongside Anthony Nash will stand to him as he takes over Cork hurling number 1 jersey.
Nash retired after the 2020 campaign, having kept goal for every Cork championship match from 2012-20 inclusive. Prior to that, Dónal Óg Cusack had an unbroken run of starts from 1999-2011, while Ger Cunningham preceded him, playing every championship game since 1981.
Collins (24) has been part of the Cork senior panel since 2015 but up to now his experience has been limited to Co-opSuperStores.ie Munster HL and Allianz HL games. However, Martin – a county SHC winner with Sars in 2012 and 2014 who played both in goal and outfield for Wexford – doesn’t have any fears about Collins’s ability to succeed Nash.
“From playing alongside Nasher [the pair won the Fitzgibbon Cup final with UCC in 2009] and I know the sort of fella that Patrick is, he would have learned a lot,” he says.
“He’d be a bit of a sponge and probably a student of the game as well, trying to improve every day.
“I think he’ll enjoy it and embrace it and take it as a great opportunity. He has waited for it for a while and that puts its own pressures on it as well but the fact that he has played a lot of league games, and high-profile ones shown live on TV, means that there should be no fear of him.
“With the level of training nowadays, sub goalies or third-choice goalies probably have more work done than they would have had in the past.
“They’re doing specific goalkeeping work, so that when they actually get their chance they’re as sharp as they can be rather than an old-style sub keeper who mightn’t have got that training.” Nevertheless, making that step up to championship level isn’t an easy one, especially as Cork begin their provincial campaign with a clash against Munster and All-Ireland champions Limerick at the start of July.
“From club level, it’s very different, obviously,” Martin says.
“The speed of the game, the pressure on everything you’re doing. Everything at inter-county is a higher level, it’s a pressure cooker.
“You’re dealing with better forwards – every forward on an inter-county team is generally going to be more accurate so you’ll be facing better shots. In terms of puckouts, inter-county forwards are probably more aware and they set up quicker – Limerick are very good at it, when they get a score the six forwards are out with the hurls up, whereas a club player might have his back turned.
“From inter-county league, the big difference is what’s at stake and attendances would have been a big thing, too. Another difference is that the championship is in the summer, in better conditions. A sub goalie will usually get their opportunity to stake their claim in a Walsh Cup or Munster league game or national league game against a lesser team in conditions that are that bit trickier, so it’s a catch-22 in a way.” Collins has played outfield for Ballinhassig in the past, though he was in goal for last year’s championship while his brother Ger – set to be his deputy for Cork – played at corner-forward.
Martin played in goal for Wexford underage sides before joining the panel as Damien Fitzhenry’s back-up. After a spell as an outfielder, he went in goal in 2012 before another stint outfield and then served as reserve goalkeeper to Mark Fanning when the Model County won the 2019 Leinster title.
All the while, he played outfield at club level, for home club Geraldine O’Hanrahans in Wexford, then Sars and latterly Carrickshock of Kilkenny, where he now resides. He believes that an inter-county goalkeeper can benefit from outfield duty at club level.
“It’s a huge advantage, I think,” he says.
“A good few goalkeepers do it now, like Nickie Quaid and Eoin Murphy, and Damien Fitzhenry used to do it for Duffry Rovers.
“It helps with a lot of things. It speeds up your hurling in terms of playing like an outfielder when you’re in the goal. You don’t take so long on the ball, which is important in terms of the quality of inter-county forwards these days.
“Your spatial awareness and first touch improve too and it probably gives you an insight into how outfielders think and how they work, what the lads playing with you or against you are thinking.”