BY NOEL HORGAN
Could it be now or never for Patrick Horgan in terms of picking up that elusive All-Ireland medal?
At 33, it has to be acknowledged that time is no longer on the side of the silken-skilled Glen Rovers sticksman, and, with several teams more or less at the same level in the current hurling world, there’s no guarantee he’ll receive another opportunity to exhibit his talents on the big stage should Cork go under to Limerick next Sunday.
It will be his 65th appearance in a championship game at senior level, having earned the call-up to the Cork squad for the first time in 2008.
He got his first start under Gerald McCarthy in an All-Ireland quarter-final against Clare that year, and he also lined out in the semi-final before being replaced towards the end of a contest which was lost to Kilkenny.
Having spent three years on the Cork minor team, winning three Munster championship medals, he was always regarded as a prodigious talent, but it’s fair to say his transition to senior ranks didn’t go as smoothly as might have been expected.
In Cork’s three championship outings in 2009, for instance, he was called ashore in two (against Tipperary in the Munster championship and against Galway in an All-Ireland qualifier), and he didn’t start in the other which yielded the team’s sole win at Offaly’s expense.
It was a similar story in 2010, as Horgan played from start to finish in just one of Cork’s six championship games, but he finally began to blossom in the Red jersey the following year when wins over Laois and Offaly were sandwiched by defeats from Tipp in Munster and Galway in an All-Ireland qualifier.
He was widely regarded as Cork’s top player in 2011, but he had to wait another two seasons to gain All-Star recognition for the first time.
He now has four All-Star awards to this credit - testimony to his status as one of the most accomplished forwards of his generation.
He’s surely in line to make it five this year, thereby joining former greats Jimmy Barry-Murphy of the Barrs, Midleton’s John Fenton and Na Piarsaigh’s Tony O’Sullivan as Cork’s leading recipients in hurling.
Over the past four or five seasons on the senior inter-county front, there is no disputing Horgan has fully realised the enormous potential he displayed during his underage days.
And, in the wake of Galway’s triumph in 2017 which allowed Joe Canning to finally taste All-Ireland glory, Horgan would today be generally ranked as the most proficient performer in the game yet to win hurling’s most cherished prize.
At the same time, a similar case might be made for Seamus Harnedy, who, along with Horgan, lined out when Cork previously appeared in an All-Ireland final in 2013.
They are the only survivors from the team which lost to Clare in a replay eight seasons ago, and Harnedy probably felt he wouldn’t have to wait so long for another opportunity to display his wares in the game’s showpiece following that defeat.
It was his first year involved at senior level, and the St Ita’s clubman, who never played minor or U21 hurling with Cork, took to the big-time like a duck to water.
While he did impress when given a run with the Cork intermediate team, it was primarily his displays with UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup that brought him to the attention of the senior management, headed by Jimmy Barry-Murphy.
That he exploded on to the inter-county stage can be gauged from his inclusion on the All-Star team in 2013, and he remained Cork’s marquee attacker in subsequent seasons, rarely failing to make a worthwhile impact as a ball-winning half-forward and score-getter.
As with Patrick Horgan, the 31-year old is motoring as well as ever at the moment, underlining his value to the team when, subdued by his own standards in the first-half, running into top form after the interval to make a telling contribution to Cork’s semi-final win over Kilkenny two weeks ago.
It can be taken for granted no Cork player would savour victory next Sunday more than the long-serving Horgan and Harnedy, although it will be an especially sweet occasion too for Douglas stalwart Eoin Cadogan should the Rebels prevail.
Cadogan first joined the hurling squad in 2008, but the talented and teak-tough dual-star didn’t feature in the 2013 All-Ireland final, as he had given full commitment to the footballers at the time.
Needless to say, the 34-year old defender - a key member of the Sam Maguire-winning team in 2010 - will relish the chance to add his name to the elite list of Cork players who have won All-Ireland senior medals in both codes.
Horgan: nobody in Cork camp too big to be told what to do
BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
PATRICK Horgan is one of the best hurlers not to win an All-Ireland senior title, but that status could become obsolete by Sunday.
The Glen Rovers man captains Cork against Limerick in Croke Park, one of just two survivors – along with Séamus Harnedy – from the Rebels’ last appearance in the decider in 2013.
‘You start out every year with the All Ireland final as your goal so every year you don’t get to that you haven’t achieved your goal,’ he says.
‘We always believe that we could make it back in those times when we were making it to finals and semi-finals but it doesn’t always happen. You need a really good team to get there and I think that is what we have now and we have made it.’
Horgan’s championship debut for Cork came in the Munster SHC semi-final loss to Tipperary in June 2008. It was a game the Rebels lost by six points having led by seven early on and he wore the number 29 shirt as he replaced Niall McCarthy in the 68th minute. By the time Cork’s campaign ended that year with a semi-final loss to Kilkenny, Horgan was a starter and, injuries aside, he has remained in situ in the 13 years since.
Unfortunately for Horgan – now captain – and Cork, the Liam MacCarthy Cup hasn’t visited Leeside in the interim. In 2013, Horgan’s point to put the Rebels in the lead against Clare in the final was cancelled out by Domhnall O’Donovan’s equaliser and Clare won the replay. However, he hasn’t been asked to reminisce by the younger squad members.
‘No, they haven’t,’ Horgan says.
‘That is not a thing for these young fellows coming in. They will go into this game the same as they will go into any game – the same as they went into last week – it is the same thing at the end of the day. They are focussed on the next day and that is what before.’
Whereas the squad he joined included Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Joe Deane, now Horgan togs out alongside Alan Connolly and Shane Barrett.
‘The hardest thing about when I came onto the panel was that you were coming into a team of fellas you would have looked up to winning All-Irelands like Seán Óg, Sully and Joe Deane and those types of players so it was hard coming in there,’ he says.
‘It would have been hard to be out there with those players and that was from just being young and timid, looking at the boys that were there.
Now there is no one too big or too small to be told what they are doing wrong or what they are doing right in training and I think that is the best way to have it.
‘If someone needs to be told something whether they are on the panel or like me or [Eoin] Cadogan they will be told what’s right and what’s wrong.’
That focus on doing the correct thing within the camp means that Limerick’s status as strong favourites isn’t a factor for Kieran Kingston’s men.
‘That is irrelevant to us,’ Horgan says.
‘We come down here training to be the best we can be and hopefully we can show that next Sunday and where that will take us, we don’t know.
‘It will be all just on the day. We will be confident that we can put in a performance but whether that is going to be enough or not we will just have to wait and see.’
‘We are getting the name as a running team but there is a lot of physical fellas on our team and on the Limerick team there are a lot of fast fellas – at this level it is only the fine margins anyway so whether you run it or hit it everything comes out on the day and the best team will win.’