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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 20 October, 2018
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Cork's Kearney savouring the good times a year since frustrating quit rumours

“In your early 20s things can move so fast that you kind of take for granted what you’re doing.”

IN DANIEL KEARNEY’S ideal world, he wouldn’t be holding court for a group of journalists at the Rochestown Park Hotel with just four days to go until a Munster senior hurling final.

At the same time, the Cork midfielder recognises the pre-match press night as a necessary evil. When the national media have made the journey to Leeside, it means there’s an important game on the horizon. After a couple of difficult years, the Rebels are where they want to be again.

Daniel Kearney Daniel Kearney pictured at the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork on Wednesday evening. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I think at times it gets built up about the state of Cork hurling,” says Kearney. “I know there has been a lack of underage success but there are good players in Cork. Playing club championship, you can see there are very good young fellas out there and there are more out there to come as well.”

This afternoon, Cork will play in their first provincial decider since the 2014 victory over Limerick. The intervening period brought them little to savour. Qualifier wins against Wexford and Clare in 2015 were overshadowed by a comprehensive defeat to Galway in the quarter-finals. After Tipp brushed Kieran Kingston’s team aside last year, Wexford ended their season on the second weekend in July.

Today’s Munster final against Clare is Cork’s reward for a resurgence which earned them impressive wins over Waterford and reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary. The team that started in those games featured five championship debutants, including a 20-year-old and three 19-year-olds.

Their presence in this afternoon’s minor decider in Thurles has added to a growing belief within the Rebel County that perhaps the future isn’t so bleak for Cork hurling after all.

It’s an exciting time to be involved and a far cry from where Kearney found himself just over 12 months ago. In the aftermath of a dismal defeat to Tipp in the Munster quarter-finals — in which Kearney was substituted just before the interval — the Sarsfields man was forced to take to Twitter to address rumours that he had left the panel.

Daniel Kearney celebrates with supporters Kearney celebrates after Cork's 2014 Munster final win against Limerick. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I never knew where that came out of, to be honest,” he says. “I think it was just a Facebook page and it got momentum. I suppose that’s the modern age, stuff just gets thrown around.”

As his tweet pointed out, the rumours had no basis but Kearney was irritated nevertheless. The Cork players were already dealing with hefty criticism following an abject display at Semple Stadium. On top of that, he was now being accused of abandoning a sinking ship.

As the rumours grew legs, even Cork manager Kieran Kingston needed an explanation. The matter was swiftly put to bed, however, and Kearney chipped in with a couple of points as Cork saw off Dublin in the qualifiers six weeks later.

“Yeah, it was [frustrating],” he recalls. “I suppose your name gets dragged through stuff like that. It’s unfortunate but there’s nothing you can do either. It’s out of your hands. I suppose that kind of stuff comes with the territory as well, but it wasn’t ideal.

“Kieran rang me alright but he knew that it wasn’t true. But I had friends and stuff like that; WhatsApp goes mad and stuff. But it was just a few days really of a bit of commotion. In the modern age that’s just the way things happen.”

Daniel Kearney and Cian Dillon Cian Dillon puts Kearney under pressure during the drawn 2013 All-Ireland final, which Clare won after a replay. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kearney hasn’t used social media since that episode. He adds: “I suppose everybody has an opinion these days on it and I think it’s just easier to stay away from it. For me, it’s just easier to stay away. To be honest, these days I actually don’t have time to be on social media with training and work.”

He’ll read the paper every day, but you’re more likely to find Daniel Kearney keeping abreast of the latest news on Brexit and Donald Trump than anything to do with the GAA. Outside of his commitments to Cork hurling and the accountancy department at VoxPro in Mahon Point, golf and current affairs are what keep the 27-year-old occupied.

“To be honest, as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to stay more away from the media and stuff like that,” he says. “You try to step away from it in terms of matches and all that, because a lot of it could influence the way you play and your perception of a player; things like that.”

Even the most optimistic of Cork supporters couldn’t forecast the championship campaign they’ve enjoyed so far, but from a personal point of view, Kearney has had to be patient.

A hand injury he sustained against Kilkenny during the Allianz League was followed by an achilles problem which kept him out of the Munster quarter-final win over Tipp. He was introduced for the last 10 minutes of the semi-final against Waterford, and a cameo from the bench looks set to be the best he can hope for again today.

Daniel Kearney injured Kearney sustained an injury a hand injury against Kilkenny in March. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“From my point of view, like any player on the panel, I just wanted to make a contribution,” says the three-time Cork senior hurling championship winner. “If it’s a minute, it’s a minute, but you just want to get on that field. Thankfully I got ten minutes against Waterford and hopefully I’ll get some time [today].”

This is Kearney’s sixth year on the Cork senior hurling panel. Having made his championship debut at 22, he played in two Munster deciders and experienced All-Ireland final day twice in his first three seasons. A good start, but he admits the years that followed were tough. Yet enduring those difficulties has only served to increase his enjoyment of days like this.

“In Cork, there’s the expectation always that if you’re not winning an All-Ireland then it’s not a successful year,” he says. “That’s the pressure that’s down here. And I suppose it keeps us on our toes as well and keeps everybody focused. We’re very much this year looking forward. The past is the past and we don’t really get caught up in that, to be honest.”

Kearney adds: “As you get older you learn to enjoy it more. I suppose when you’re 21, 22, 23, you can kind of take for granted where you are. But then it nearly comes full circle again — you’re pinching yourself again because you’re here again.

“With those few years on you, when you look back, you think ‘I’m here now’. It’s a good position to be in. In your early 20s things can move so fast that you kind of take for granted what you’re doing.

Daniel Kearney with Patrick Curran Kearney tangling with Waterford's Patrick Curran during Cork's recent Munster semi-final win. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I’m 27 now and the years don’t be long going. You really appreciate what you’re doing.”

Having been at both ends of the spectrum during his time as a Cork senior hurler, Kearney is keen for the good times to continue — even if they’re accompanied by the caveat of another press night or two.

‘Huge risk’ has been paying dividends for the Cork senior hurlers

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Paul Dollery

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