“LOOK, the only thing I have on my mind at this moment is to stay injury free, get myself into the best form of my life and hope that Brian Cody picks me to play in the All-Ireland final.”
I am talking to Eoin Larkin in the decorative surrounds of Langton House Hotel, not long before the big hurling day in Croke Park. Like most of his team mates, Eoin Larkin is hoping beyond hope that they all arrive in Croke Park fully fit, with no niggling problems, and with every man jack of them rearing to get at the Tipp lads.
Would last year’s final, and everything that went with that defeat, have any bearing on the preparation, the mental focus of the players or the training routines between now and the final?
“Everybody seems to think that we will have that extra fire in our bellies because of last year. It is a simple as this; we lost last year to Tipperary. That was a dreadfully difficult defeat to take, but when it was over there is nothing in the wide world we could do about it,” was the simple way the James Stephens man summarised the defeat that dashed the historic bid for the never before achieved All-Ireland five in-a-row.
Did our best
“We gave of our best on the day, but it was not enough. End of story. Thinking about it now or after the game is a waste of good energy. There is no value whatsoever in that kind of regret.
“We got over it. We knuckled down to a new year, and we have placed ourselves in a position where we can win the 2011 All-Ireland final. That is what we are going to Croke Park to do.
“We are not going up there to avenge last year or any other year. We are going to try to win this one. We are only one of two teams still in with a chance of winning it. So forget last year,” he frowned.
Tipp are going to be a tough nut to crack, it was suggested.
“Of course they are,” he answered. “They are a traditional hurling county like ourselves, and they have no intention of playing the supporting role to any other hurling county, particularly in an All-Ireland final, and most especially to Kilkenny. They are the reigning champions, and as such, until such time as someone dethrones them, they are the best hurling team in the land.
“When we were winning All-Irelands we were the best team in the land. That is only right. It will be tough. It will be hard earned, and there will be but a puck of a ball between us at the finish.”
Three years ago you were voted Hurler of the Year when you were an All-Ireland medal winner, most deserving honours. Having scaled such heights, is it difficult to maintain the momentum, that level of preparation and commitment?
“I don’t find any difficulty really,” he observed casually. “I love training. I love being in good condition. I know that I must work hard to maintain an acceptable fitness level, otherwise there are plenty of lads there ready to come in and take your place.
“But we are all enjoying it, and as I said, I hope I get the nod for the team.” #
Your club form has been very good. You would appear to be nearing your peak condition. Would your club involvement be a contributing factor?
“Of course it helps,” Larkin continued. “The local League/Championship games help to sharpen your fitness, and as you know, there are not to many, if any local games a soft touch. The competitiveness is sharp, tough and intense. All of those factors help.”
Would the wild shooting in the closing 10 minutes of the semi-final give one cause to worry?
“I wouldn’t be that worried really,” Eoin continued. “I agree it looked poor, but we got a bit ragged really. I can assure you that you won’t see a repetition of that on Sunday. We lost our shape a bit. I suppose you could put it down to a lack of concentration. It won’t happen again.”
The addition of new blood in the shape of goalie David Herity, Paul Murphy, Paddy Hogan and Colin Fennelly has injected a youthful impetus to the team. They are all doing well. Is there a danger the pressures of the big day could get to them?
Great addition to squad
“I don’t think so,” Eoin said. “They have played in All-Ireland finals at under-age level and they would know what All-Ireland pressure is all about. They are all good lads, and a great addition.
“They are all level headed. I’m sure they will give a great account of themselves if they get in there.”
Finally, Eoin, in wishing all the good fortune you can wish yourself, we say that a point on the right side of the scoreboard will do for you?
“Barrie, half a point will do me as long as it is on our side of the ’board,” he said as he signed off with a smile.
Good luck Eoin Larkin - bring home the bacon, as the Connemara man would say to the butcher.