PAUDIE Hurley isn’t fazed by the big occasions. He’s seen it all before.
One of the elder statesmen of this Castlehaven team, the 34-year-old goalkeeper could win his fourth county senior football championship medal if everything goes to plan against Nemo Rangers this Sunday.
He is one of the few current players who were there in 2003 when Castlehaven defeated Clonakilty (1-9 to 1-7) at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It was Haven’s first county title since 1994.
In those days Hurley played outfield, and as well as kicking a point that day, he had a huge say in one of the game’s big moments – Colin Crowley’s early second-half goal.
‘From what I remember of that goal, the ball was broken around the middle of the field and I could see Colin inside. I drove it into him. Colin was fierce clinical in front of goal and he scored a great goal that day that pushed us on,’ Hurley recalled, as he gets ready for his fifth county SFC final.
So far, his record is impressive, with three wins from four finals – the loss to UCC in 2011 is the only blot.
Hurley had to endure a long wait from 2003 to 2011 before playing in his second Cork SFC final, and as he moves towards the latter stages of his own playing days, he values the big occasions more than most.
‘Every year you hope to get to a final. I cherish them now even more because time is running out for me. I’m 34 now. There mightn’t be too many more left so I want to make the most out of them while I’m still playing,’ Hurley said.
‘There were times before 2011 that I thought that we’d never get back there. It took us nine years again to get into a final. Some of the older lads were wondering would we ever get there again, but then some of the younger guys came along.
‘We worked hard and eventually we made a final again. It didn’t go to plan in 2011 but we pushed on again the year after. We’ve been on a good run ever since. There’s a fierce commitment there. We train hard and we play hard.’
Hurley has conceded just two goals in his three county finals in between the posts – one of those was against Nemo in 2013 – and he is only too well aware of the threat that the city side will pose this Sunday.
‘They were missing Luke Connolly in the county final against us in 2013 and he’s a very good player. You saw what he did against Ross in the semi-final when he kicked six points. When you add in him to Masters, Kerrigan and O’Driscoll, that’s a very good attack,’ Hurley said.
‘The older lads out around the middle – Niblock and Morgan – were very strong the last day. Nemo are gathering momentum, so we need to up our game a lot from the semi-final.
‘Tomas Ó Sé is a big plus for them, especially after they lost Stephen Cronin to injury. Ó Sé is a leader. Ciarán Ó Shea didn’t play against us in 2012 either so they have good players back and we need to be at our very best to win.’
Hurley also has links to the current Nemo team as while he soldiered alongside David Niblock with the Cork minors and U21s, the sister of his wife Anna, Catherine, is going out with Nemo’s Alan Morgan, so it adds an interesting sub-plot to Sunday.
Also at Páirc Uí Rinn this weekend will be Hurley’s biggest supporter, his six-month old daughter, Deirdre, who was sporting a cosy blue and white hat at the club’s open night last Friday.
‘Football is important but family comes first. We all like to win, but whatever happens on the field there’s always something to come home to and there will be a smile waiting for you. Hopefully, I’ll be going home smiling next week,’ Hurley said, but while the year could finish on a high it was a slow start for the Haven number one.
‘I actually tore my calf twice earlier in the year. It was very slow trying to get it right. I came back and tore it again. I was struggling, to be honest, to get it right at the start of the season,’ he explained.
After sitting out the win against Clyda in round one, Hurley has been between the posts in the three championship games since, and he is ready now to make the most of Sunday’s county final, knowing that there won’t be many days like this left.