DENIS HURLEY caught up with Daniel Goulding after he announced he was retiring from Cork football
IT’S a quirk of the analysis of Cork football – winners of seven All-Ireland senior titles since the GAA began – that even the successful teams are viewed as having underachieved.
Daniel Goulding, who retired recently, departs having been man of match in the 2010 All-Ireland final win over Down, winning four Munster titles and four league medals, three Division 1 and one Division 2. It’s a haul greater than 99 percent of those who have worn the red jersey, but the general perception is that Cork should have won more during Conor Counihan’s time in charge.
Right now, the Rebel faithful would love to be anywhere near the level of routinely reaching All-Ireland semi-finals and Goulding admits that the glory days pass fairly quickly.
‘I would think that it’s disappointing that Cork, for the last four or five years, haven’t been winning Munsters or competing a bit more in the All-Ireland series,’ he says.
‘It’s not down to lack of effort or interest in the whole thing, there have been management teams and players putting in a huge amount of work. I suppose we’re just finding it that bit harder at the moment.
‘If you look back at 2010, I can remember thinking, “There are another three or four chances here” but unfortunately it didn’t pan out that way. It was never due to lack of interest or workrate or commitment or anything like that.
‘There has been a lot of change over the last few years, Dublin and Mayo and Kerry have had settled teams whereas we’ve been in a bit of a state of flux and it’s that bit harder to compete at the top level then.
‘You’re in a bubble when things are going well and you think that they’re going to go well forever.’
Having not been part of the matchday panel when Cork lost to Donegal in round 4 of the All-Ireland qualifiers – though manager Peadar Healy namechecked him afterwards as someone who he hoped would stay on – the win over Longford will go down as his last match.
He was substituted at half-time that day though, and it was symptomatic of his changing relationship with the intercounty game.
‘I suppose that was thinking that I’d give it one more good year with new management coming and board and see what happened,’ he says.
‘I never had my mind made up that I was definitely going or definitely staying, I just left it open. I found that, by the end of the year, it was dominating my life a small bit too much and I was probably wasn’t getting enough out of it or enjoying it enough.
‘I made the call after the whole season was over, it would have been totally rash to make an immediate decision. Straight after a game, you’re not thinking straight, you’re either on a high because you’re after winning something or you’re cross because you’re not playing or you’re after losing. It’s probably not the right time to make a decision on it.’
Dropped after the 2014 Munster final loss to Kerry, Goulding wouldn’t start again in the championship until the summer just past. When you’re on a county panel, putting in the effort but not getting game-time, it’s not huge fun.
‘It’s very frustrating,’ Goulding admits.
‘There’s what, 34 or 35 lads in there the whole year but only 15 of them will start and six can come on, every other lads that doesn’t get a look-in is always disappointed. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there, that’s why they put in all the effort.
‘You do it because you want to get on the first 15 but then obviously there’s the risk of the livelihood that that mightn’t happen. I just found that, at 30 years of age, not getting on the team regularly was tough going.
‘The amount of time needed for things other than playing and training took its toll. There’s a lot of analysis now, stats, the dietary requirements, what you can eat is a lot different now compared to when I started.
‘Just the general amount of time you spend around the set-up, with looking after your body, recovery, rehab, prep for games, tactics, it has gone up another notch or two even over the last three or four years.’
Knowing that every other county is putting in a huge effort means that the demands grow.
‘Intercounty, it’s an intense set-up,’ he says.
‘You’re always clued-in because if you’re not you’ll get found out, even in training, not to mind on the day of a championship game.
‘The amount of effort and focus you have to put in is huge, you have another 30 lads trying to do that, all trying to work together.
‘It can be enjoyable, but I just found coming home from training sessions I was more cross and annoyed with the whole thing rather than enjoying it for what it is.’
Preparation for his upcoming wedding to his girlfriend of more than a decade, Muireann Corkery, will account for some of the new free time, though he leaves with some great memories.
‘The friendship more than anything,’ he says.
‘I have made ten or 15 very good friends out of it that I could call any day about anything and vice-versa.
‘There were great playing days like the Tyrone match in 2009 and the couple of league finals that we won. There were good Munster finals and some very enjoyable victories.
‘I’ll miss the training as well no doubt. I’ll miss the craic in the dressing room, I’m still friends with a lot of the lads and I’ll keep in touch with them.
‘I’ll miss the big championship days but everything’s a balance and I found that the balance wasn’t right anymore for me.’
There is at least the consolation that Cork’s loss will be Éire Óg’s gain.
‘I’m looking forward to playing more regularly with Éire Óg and giving them my full commitment, for the last ten years they’ve seen me for championship games and a couple of league games.
‘It’ll be nice now to go out and play games and enjoy it.’