PRIOR to Cork’s Munster SFC semi-final win over Kerry, former Rebel footballer Daniel Goulding was a guest on the Star Sports Podcast.
When asked by sports editor Kieran McCarthy about the positive impact that Paul Kerrigan brought to the Cork camp, the Éire Óg man underlined the qualities of his former team-mate.
‘He’s the ultimate competitor, he loves winning,’ he said.
‘Always and ever has been a really committed fella and he works really hard on his own, things people wouldn’t know about.
‘He constantly tries to improve and he’s a testament to himself. It’s great for the minors and U20s to see a guy at the age of 34 who has an All-Ireland medal still putting in the hard slog.’
Kerrigan brought those strengths to bear as he made an appearance from the bench as Cork secured a first victory over the Kingdom since 2012 but it proved to be the Nemo Rangers man’s final appearance in red.
An unused sub in the Munster final loss to Tipperary a fortnight ago, Kerrigan brought his 13-year inter-county career to an end last week. Having considered stepping away after the disappointing 2018 season, Kerrigan also explored his options at the end of 2019 but stayed on after discussions with manager Ronan McCarthy, but he knew deep down that 2020 would always be the last year.
‘I was thinking about it last year and I had a chat with Ronan,’ he said.
‘I came back and we had an extended season with the club and then myself and Luke were on the panel for Leitrim a couple of weeks later.
‘Then the Covid hit and I was wondering if I’d go back but I said I’d see how it went. Things went well after Covid and I was training well, the last two months have been really enjoyable.
‘I had it in my head that it was my last year as I’ve been there a long time and the commitment is gone bananas – every five years, it seems to go up a level.’
Few if any Cork players have a win over Kerry as the last line on their CV. Naturally, Kerrigan would have preferred if things had turned out differently but he understands the landscape.
‘It’s top-level sport and the management have hard decisions to make,’ he said.
‘If an older player is throwing the toys out of the pram, it’s bad for everyone. I always remember the example of Daniel Goulding, he was taken off at half-time against Longford in 2016 and he was brilliant after it.
‘I was disappointed not to play, but I was more disappointed with the result. I’d generally be a ‘glass half-empty’ guy, I would have plenty of regrets about things like that, but hopefully that’ll change over the next few years as I step away from it.’
He has a portfolio to match any Cork player – an All-Ireland, three Munster titles, four league wins (three Division 1 and one Division 2), an All-Star nomination and an appearance for Ireland in the international rules series.
The win over Down in 2010, when Cork finally got over the line to claim the All-Ireland, was the highlight, of course.
‘I remember at the time thinking, ‘This is a day I’ll never forget,’ but it doesn’t really happen that you remember every moment,’ he said of 2010.
‘That was a great couple of years, a great journey with big games year in and year out. It was great as a young fella to be part of that.’
The time after that wasn’t as fruitful, but Kerrigan leaves with the curve having turned upwards, in his view.
‘I would have good faith in the group that are there now at the moment,’ he said.
‘The age profile is good and they’re on an upward curve. The potential is there and they have a good work ethic. You can talk about a sense of duty but I’d love to be five years younger to see where this group goes, if everyone can stay fit.
‘A lot of them now have beaten Kerry in their first year or two on the panel, which is a big fillip for them.’
Kerrigan, a teacher at Coláiste Chríost Rí, has already built up managerial experience with the school’s football teams, guiding the U16½ side to the Frewen Cup before graduating to the seniors. Is coaching at club or inter-county level a part of his future?
‘Maybe, down the line,’ he said.
‘To be honest, I’m not sure about being the main man, but maybe an involvement, I’ve been seven or eight years doing it with Críost Rí.
‘Not immediately, anyway – I’ll still be tipping away with Nemo, but down the line, we’ll see.’
In any case, there are more pressing matters, not least the unprecedented spring county final for Nemo against Castlehaven. Having claimed medals with the club in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2017 and last year, he is keen to earned a ninth title.
‘We’ll use the experience of preparing in January for a one-off game like the All-Ireland club semis,’ he said.
‘We’ll have to see how the announcements go, it’ll probably be December or January when we get back into it.’