PAT Prendergast, who turns 41 years old later this year, has no intentions of hanging up his gloves anytime soon.
Instead, he’s relishing the chance to lace up his boots for Bandon’s footballers and hurlers, and getting back on the pitch this season.
‘I’m starting my 25th pre-season with Bandon this year so it doesn’t get easier!’ Prendergast told the Star Sport Podcast, but the experienced shot-stopper’s passion and drive hasn’t waned over the years.
‘Bandon has been good to me and if I can help out anyway I can I’ll keep coming back,’ he says.
‘It’s the day I feel – or they feel – that I’m not adding to it, then I’ll step aside.’
Right now, he feels good. In a Star interview in 2016 Prendergast joked that Bandon GAA will have to ask him to leave, and nothing has changed since.
‘The big thing with last season is I missed the dressing-room. You go in there 20 minutes before training, you’re meeting the younger lads, they keep you young with the bit of craic and the stories. You’d miss the camaraderie and the banter if you stepped away,’ he says.
‘Then you’ve 30 lads working hard for one purpose, that’s a big thing to step away from.
‘Someone wrote once that I was in the twilight of my career, that was in 2016, and I’m still in the twilight of my career now!
‘Last year I was thinking of packing it in, then you get a boost, you get a phonecall and you are back in again.’
Last season Bandon’s senior footballers and hurlers qualified for the quarter-finals of both their championships and Prendergast feels that they’re in a good position to make progress this year. He wants to be part of that and make more memories, like in 2016 when he captained the club’s footballers to the county intermediate crown and also won the Cork premier intermediate hurling title too.
‘That was an immense year, we were on the go ten or 11 weekends in a row, we didn’t even get a break in between the two finals – they are the highlights you look back on,’ the Macroom-based Garda says, while another personal highlight arrived very early in his career.
‘Being a child of the 1980s and 90s my two favourite Cork players would have been John Kerins and Stephen O’Brien. In my first year involved with Carbery (2000) we played the Cork seniors and Stephen O’Brien was playing full forward for Cork on the same day. I remember kicking a ball out, I chipped it over his head, and I think it was Owen Sexton running on to it. O’Brien turned around to me and said, “Jesus, that’s a great kick-out”. That was a highlight,’ Prendergast says, and he also reveals he shared a pitch with the legendary Teddy Holland of Ballinascarthy.
‘I made my (first-team) debut in 1997, but I played junior B in 1996 against the great Teddy Holland,’ he says.
To still be travelling so well now, and being first choice for both Bandon’s senior footballers and hurlers, shows incredible longevity – so what’s the secret?
‘Luck,’ he replies.
‘I’ve been fortunate with injuries, most of them were when I was playing rugby instead of GAA. I have played with good teams too and I have worked hard – there have been a lot of nights I’ve spent in the corner on my own, diving on balls in the muck.
‘I think I’ve missed about six or seven championship games for Bandon in that time.’
Given his experience, and that he has played in the big games – winning county titles at various levels with Bandon and he was also between the posts when Carbery won the 2004 Cork SFC title – it’s no surprise he was called on to take part in an online football goalkeeping webinar that has seen some of Cork’s finest shot-stoppers, including Alan Quirke, Billy Morgan and Ray O’Mahony, share their knowledge with the next generation. The aim? To help improve the standard of football goalkeepers in the county.
‘The best piece of advice I was given, and I give it to younger goalkeepers, is to have a short memory,’ Prendergast says.
‘If a high ball drops in or you make a mistake, if you lose the head, run out and kick it out, the next thing the second ball comes back in and the exact same thing happens again.
‘You need to stay calm, have a short memory, forget about what happened before because all you can deal with is what’s coming next. As a goalkeeper, as the last line, that’s all you can do, to deal with what’s in front of you.’
He started off as a soccer goalkeeper before being drafted in between the posts for Bandon in his first year at U16. He’s been there since with the footballers, though he did spend a few years out the field with the hurlers before going back in goal in 2016. Prendergast has watched the role of a goalkeeper evolve in both codes and feels hurling is following football’s lead.
‘What I am finding in hurling now is the quick restarts, short puck-outs, accurate puck-outs, it’s becoming a big more football-ised that way. The goalkeeper has a lot more influence on a game. It’s a lot of puck-out strategies and puck-out percentages,’ he says. He’s well used to that approach in football.
‘The restart is massive. It’s not just about the goalkeeper, it’s about having backs who are live to it, having midfielders who are live to it, wing forwards who are live to it, it’s an orchestrated thing. The days of corner back running out with his back to you are gone,’ he explains. ‘A goalkeeper needs to get the ball on the tee as quickly as he can – there’s a stat, back around 2010 I think, that the longer you left it on the tee the less chance you had of your kick-outs being successful. It’s now down to six or seven seconds.’
The clock is ticking on kick-outs, but not on Prendergast who feels he has more to offer Bandon this year.
He’ll be back when the club action resumes.