Kearney ready to stand tall for Cork on the biggest stage

The 5ft 9″ midfielder has been one of the newcomers that has revived the Rebels challenge this summer.

Cork hurler Daniel Kearney.
Cork hurler Daniel Kearney.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

WHEN James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick retired from intercounty hurling in November 2011, at the relatively young age of 26, Daniel Kearney’s heart sank.

It wasn’t long before Kearney’s 22nd birthday and for a player still finding his feet in the hurling world, the news that Kilkenny superstar Fitzpatrick had decided that top-level hurling was no longer for him struck a chord.

Fitzpatrick was Kilkenny’s 2008 All-Ireland winning captain, after all.

A holder of five All-Ireland medals, three National Leagues, three times an Allstar and a former Young Hurler of the Year.

Kearney was similar in stature to Fitzpatrick, 5ft 9” tall and not the biggest in the world.

So when he heard that Fitzpatrick couldn’t compete any longer with the sheer power and physical presence of Michael Fennelly at training, Kearney wondered if he’d ever make the big time.

“I remember when I was coming on the Sarsfields senior team (and) Cha Fitzpatrick quit,” Kearney recalls.

“And I read some quote where he said he couldn’t keep chasing Michael Fennelly up and down the pitch.

“It was a bit disheartening when you saw a similar player to yourself saying he wasn’t able for it anymore.

“But it’s the game I love. You look at the O’Connors (Ben and Jerry), not saying I’d be like Jerry O’Connor but he’d have a similar game in that he’s a skilful player, a fast player, gets on loose ball and does his thing with it.

“Whenever I get an opportunity to play that’s what I do, go out and do my best for the team – that’s all you can do really.”


And what he’s done since making his senior championship debut against Tipperary last summer is just fine for Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who first introduced him to the Cork senior set-up.

Kearney is JBM’s type of player, a bundle of energy who fits perfectly into the style of play that the former dual star wishes to implement.

Kearney, a Fitzgibbon Cup winner with UCC in 2012, nods: “I think he (JBM) had said before that he likes fast, skilful players and maybe I kind of fitted that.

I wouldn’t be the biggest, nor the most physical and if it had been another manager I mightn’t have got the call at all but I was lucky enough to get it.”

Kearney has been one of the unsung heroes of Cork’s 2013 campaign.

In so many ways, he symbolises the modern day midfielder with those swash-buckling runs, coupled with an ability to provide protection for his half-back line. He’s a maker and taker of scores and blessed with a terrific engine.

And yet he’s still a virtual novice alongside Lorcán McLoughlin in a high-octane Cork midfield. Both men are 23 years of age and appear to compliment each other perfectly.

Kearney says: “I think confidence is a major thing in sport. I wasn’t too confident in the beginning that I was up to it but even in challenge games – we played one or two practice games in 2012 and I did okay.

“All that, when you’re coming into a new year, you’re looking back and analysing, thinking ‘I played against this crowd before and I did okay – I can do this again’. It probably does take you a year or so to find your feet and get the confidence that you can play at this level.”

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Cork’s Daniel Kearney in action against Dublin.
Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

As a young spectator, Kearney was present at Croke Park for the 2004, 2005 and 2006 All-Ireland finals.

Back then, he dreamed of pulling on the blood red shirt and bounding onto the Croke Park sod to compete for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Tomorrow, his dream becomes a reality but despite not having sampled the big day before as a player, Kearney realizes that GAA HQ on the second Sunday in September is no place for losers.

“It’s great getting to a final but no one remembers the finalists.

“They will remember who won the All-Ireland in 2013,” says Kearney.

“When you are growing up your ultimate dream is to play in it.

“At first it is to play with Cork and then once you are playing with Cork you want to play in an All-Ireland final.

“It is huge but form our point of view we are trying to block it out the hype and the occasion.”

Easier said than done but having worked so hard to get this far, you get the feeling that Daniel Kearney’s not about to let this chance pass him by.

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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