HE HASN’T been in the job but a few weeks and already Kilkenny captain Eoin Larkin has gained a taste for silverware.
The James Stephens forward completed his first duty as the 2012 leader of the inter-county squad when he lifted the Walsh Cup following the Cats’ victory over Galway in Pearse Stadium a fortnight ago. And it’s a job he hopes to repeat many more times before the end of the season.
“It’s always nice to get a bit of silverware early on,” he said. “It’s a good way to start the year. Hopefully we’ll be able to work hard and get some more.”
Larkin, who was named captain after some sterling performances in last year’s county final, admitted that it was a huge honour to accept the role of team leader.
“Every young lad growing up in Kilkenny has a dream of playing for Kilkenny first of all, so to captain a team is something special,” he said. “It’s a great honour to have, but you can’t dwell on it too long. You have to get back down to hard work quickly - you have to get on the team first!”
That comment provides proof, if it was needed, that competition for places still remains fierce in the Kilkenny camp.
“We’ve have a few retirements, but there are plenty of young lads there who are ready and able to step in,” he said. “First and foremost the aim is to get on to the Kilkenny panel and then into the team. If you’re lucky enough to do that, then the captaincy is a great bonus to have.”
Talk of retirement brought up the question about former colleagues who have stepped down from the game. Were there any that caught the new captain by surprise?
“Some were a surprise, but people have lives outside of hurling,” he said. “John Dalton, for example, is involved with farming and didn’t have the time to give to training - something had to give. John has given great service to hurling over the last couple of years and has the All-Ireland medals to show for it. It was a tough decision he made, but everyone has to respect that.”
It’s proof, if it was needed, that hurling is practically a full-time sport.
“When you’re not training you’re trying to get ready for training,” Larkin revealed. “You have to give it everything when you’re preparing for games. It’s almost a full-time job, so it can be hard to balance work and a personal life with sport as well. If you’re still enjoying it keep doing it; John obviously wasn’t, but all we can do is wish him the best of luck for the future.”
With the Walsh Cup out of the way Larkin will switch attention to the League opener, where he will lead Kilkenny into a big clash with Tipperary this weekend.
“This will be the start of the really intense games,” he said. “Tipp are a fantastic side and I’m really looking forward to the game. Hopefully there will be a big crowd there for what should be a cracking start to the hurling year.”
And while the League could give Larkin the chance to pick up more silverware he refuses to get too carried away.
“We’ll just take each game as it comes,” the new captain said. “The be-all and end-all of every season is to win the All-Ireland. That’s what every Kilkenny player sets out to achieve.
“We have the League and Leinster championship ahead of us so we’ll be taking it all in our stride, trying to win everything as we always do. Ultimately the All-Ireland will be the one to win.”
That, and stave off the competition for places from the younger lads who played in the Walsh Cup.
“It was great for them to get a run-out, to show what they can do,” Larkin added. “I’m sure more than a few of them will be in training with us over the year, showing Brian (Cody) what they can do. There’ll be plenty of competition for places; things are very healthy in Kilkenny!