WHEN Cork take to the field against Limerick for the Munster SHC semi-final in Thurles on Saturday week, Patrick Horgan is likely to be one of just two survivors from the 2013 All-Ireland final loss to Clare.
Along with Séamus Harnedy, the Cork captain is the last man standing and he has built up a bank of experience since coming on to the panel in 2008. However, despite turning 33 in May and the curtailed pre-season – or maybe because of it – the Glen Rovers star feels that he is in the shape of his life.
“I do and I'd nearly say a lot of other fellas around the country at my age would think the same,” he says.
“I think it's more, probably experience and being able to relax a small bit in a way that, like, when I was younger it was all go, go, go, I would have trained way more a few years ago.
Gaining fitness through playing a compacted league scheduled is certainly more preferable than slogging it out in the winter months.
“For us coming back, we got two or three weeks' notice, was it two weeks? Something like that. The quality of hurling after coming back after two or three weeks I thought was really high and I think playing games weekly is what's after getting our level of hurling back to where it is now. I think every team got much, much better throughout the league. I just don't know why there'd be training in November and December if that's the level we can get to in three weeks.
“There are professional sports that don't do that [train six/seven months in advance]. They come back, have their pre-season within a month or six weeks. In no sport does anyone do pre-season for six or seven months, it just doesn't happen.”
Because of the lack of other options for experimentation, Cork rotated heavily during the Allianz HL campaign, using 34 players, though Horgan didn’t notice such churn.
“I didn't know the number was that high, in fairness,” he says, “the reason I didn't feel as if we used 34 is because it's so competitive in and around training to be honest with you.
“One player comes out and another fella slots in, more or less seamlessly. That's a good way to have it. We have really good games in training obviously and if 34 fellas are getting a chance in the league it means 34 fellas impressed in a certain way in training and that's always a positive.”
Cork will be coming up against a Limerick team that went through 2020 unbeaten and claimed a second All-Ireland in three years, but – the recent league game in the LIT Gaelic Grounds excepted – the Rebels have been able to put it up to John Kiely’s side.
“There’s been a lot of really, really good teams out since I started playing with Cork,” Horgan says.
“This Limerick team, and they know it as well, any time we’ve played them in the last few years, we’ve had good games with them. If you look back on the last four seasons, we’ve probably beaten them as much as they’ve beaten us. So that’s one thing. I don’t know, we’re just competitive with them, I’m not sure why that is but they’re a really good side.
“They’re obviously the best team in the country and we’ll have our work cut out to beat them but as regards the best teams I’ve played against, I’m not sure. They’re obviously going to be up there, they’re a great side, but there’s been other really good teams as well.”
It’s a level Horgan would like to help Cork reach, but that doesn’t mean it’s a case of All-Ireland or bust.
“I just honestly try to enjoy the game as much as I can, enjoy going training, enjoy meeting the lads and just enjoy the journey really of it.
“Just enjoy your days down there because it won’t be forever and if you hang it all on winning an All-Ireland, there’s a lot of competitive teams out there and more than likely you’ll end up disappointed so obviously the goal we want is to win that but there’s a long way to go before that.”
- Patrick Horgan has teamed up with Centra for the launch of their Community Matters campaign which will call on people across Ireland to show what matters most to them about their local community. Centra, 12 years as proud sponsors of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, are celebrating Ireland’s communities and the strong bonds people have developed with their locality over the past 15 months.To see how Centra will champion communities across Ireland, follow @CentraIRL and #CommunityMatters across social.