Cork and Castlehaven forward Michael Hurley chats to GER McCARTHY about recovering from injury, the return of inter-county football and the delayed 2020 Cork PSFC final
CONSISTENCY will be key if Cork are to enjoy a successful 2021 Allianz National Football League campaign according to Castlehaven’s Michael Hurley.
The Cork dressing room was a happy place deep in the bowels of Páirc Uí Chaoimh on a wet and windy evening last November. Mark Keane’s late goal had just torpedoed Kerry and earned the Rebels the most unexpected of Munster semi-final wins.
Castlehaven’s Michael Hurley was introduced after 54 minutes and played his part in Cork’s morale-boosting victory. The 25-year-old forward fondly remembers the post-match excitement and wild dressing room scenes.
‘Absolutely ecstatic are the words I’d use to describe our dressing room after the win over Kerry,’ Hurley told The Southern Star.
‘It was pure joy and happiness to be honest. It was a special moment for the Cork team as we had been on a fairly long road the previous years. Maybe there was a sense of relief too. We got over a hurdle (Kerry) we had struggled to defeat in recent years so there was a lot of joy that evening, definitely.’
Alas, 14 days later, the contrast in the same Páirc Uí Chaoimh dressing room could not have been starker. The high of overcoming the Kingdom preceded the low of failing to turn up and losing to Tipperary in the 2020 Munster decider. Lack of consistency, Cork football’s Achilles heel, struck once again.
‘Pure dejection,’ is Michael Hurley’s recollection of the Cork dressing room following their Munster final loss.
‘There had a been high expectation after beating Kerry which isn’t always a good thing. The players were absolutely dejected because we knew we were good enough to win that game.
‘Cork was by no means entitled to win Munster but we had that inner belief that we could do it. So, it was extremely frustrating that we didn’t perform to the best of our ability like we did against Kerry.’
A new shortened 2021 National League campaign offers Cork the opportunity to build on last season’s impressive showing in the same competition. Cork found a solid level of consistency by winning all seven Division 3 fixtures to finish top of the table and secure promotion.
Michael Hurley and his team mates are looking for more of the same in Division 2 South. Starting with Laois, then Clare and finally Kildare. All three fixtures are away from home but Hurley strikes an upbeat tone when looking ahead to Cork’s next set of opponents.
Ronan McCarthy’s side take on Kildare in their season opener at Semple Stadium in Thurles this Saturday at 3.30pm, live on Eir Sport.
‘Everyone in the Cork camp is excited about the weeks ahead,’ the Castlehaven forward noted.
You probably could call me an ‘old man’ when you see the amount of younger fellas who have joined the senior panel in the last while
‘As a player, all you want to do is play games. Training is training but games are what you need. Thankfully, we will have league games coming at us thick and fast. Cork has three league games over the next three weekends. Depending on results, possibly another game or two after that. Laois, Clare and Kildare are three very good teams so it is not going to be easy. With all due respect to the counties in Division 3, this is a step up.’
It is hard to believe that Michael Hurley made his Cork senior inter-county debut back in 2016. The 25-year-old currently works for SIG Ireland Construction Suppliers in Cork and, whether he likes it or not, is in the ‘older fellas’ camp when it comes to analysing a youthful Cork senior football panel.
‘Ah, I’m more of a middle man when it comes to the age thing,’ Hurley commented.
‘You probably could call me an ‘old man’ when you see the amount of younger fellas who have joined the senior panel in the last while. I feel like I have been around a long time alright but would still like to think I’m a young fella at 25.
‘They have brought a different perspective for a panel that might have been, at times, struggling with confidence. There is no shortage of confidence with the lads that have come up from U20. I think their arrival has had a positive effect on the Cork senior setup and is exactly what was needed.’
Hurley has had to deal with intermittent back injuries over the past 24 months. The pandemic has offered the inter-county forward a welcome opportunity to recuperate ahead of a busy schedule.
The not-so-small matter of taking on Nemo Rangers in the rearranged 2020 Cork PSFC final will loom large on the horizon for the Castlehaven player once the inter-county season has ends.
‘My back was bothering me most of last year but the pandemic offered me the chance to work with physios and strength and conditioning coaches to try and get it right,’ admitted Hurley.
‘I have a good grasp of it now and it is a case of managing it more than anything.
‘As for my club Castlehaven, all my focus is on Cork right now but it is good that we have a provisional date (weekend of August 6th, 7th and 8th) for the county final against Nemo Rangers. It is good to see the county board prioritising the final and arranging for it to go ahead before the 2021 championship starts.
‘For now, it is all about Cork and the National League. One of my main priorities every year is to get through the league without picking up any injuries. After that, I will be trying to nail down a starting position in the championship fifteen. More than anything though, I just want to enjoy the next few months. The last year has been challenging for everyone. Footballers are some of the lucky ones who have had the chance to play (our) sport. So, I’m determined to enjoy my time with Cork over the next few months.’