Kearney just fits the bill for JBM
LIKE most of the Cork players, Daniel Kearney, unlucky to be overlooked for an All-Star award last year, suffered a dip in form during the Rebels' campaign in Division 1B of the National League this season.
Although he played much better in the league semi-final against Tipperary, he failed to impact again in the drawn Munster championship clash with Waterford, which meant he was under a bit of pressure to deliver a big performance in the replay.
He rose to the challenge in tremendous style, however, and he was a definite man-of-the-match contender in the Munster semi-final against Clare before turning in another strong display in the decider against Limerick.
The Sarsfields clubman is obviously delighted with the way things have gone for him in the last three games, and he says he's very grateful to the management for keeping faith in him.
"I certainly owe a lot to Jimmy (Barry-Murphy), who brought me into the panel in 2012 at a time when it was felt that big physical midfielders were what you needed to have at inter-county level.
"I had been lucky enough to play in a few county finals with Sars which gave me a bit of exposure, but I didn't really expect to get a chance to play with Cork. Jimmy has his own style as a manager, and, thankfully, I fitted it, although, as I've said, he picked me kinda against the grain in a sense," stated Kearney, who, without as much as a league game under his belt, was thrown in at the deep end when introduced for the last quarter of Cork's clash with Tipp in the 2012 Munster semi-final at Pairc Uí Chaoimh.
He got his first start in the All-Ireland quarter final against Waterford that year, but he admits it didn't go too well for him, and he was taken off before the finish.
"I suppose that was part of the learning process, and I didn't expect to go straight in and set the world on fire, but I'm happy enough with the way things have gone from there.
"I feel I'm now at a stage where I can put a few good games together, although I wouldn't have been pleased with my form earlier in the season, but the management stuck with me, and I'm very grateful for that."
Kearney admits the team as a whole struggled in the league, and he suggests that a hangover from last year's All-Ireland defeat by Clare was a factor.
"I suppose we were never too worried about the league and we had gone away on holiday in January, so we didn't get a lot of pre-season work done in comparison to other teams. You have got to realise as well that conditions slow things down in the league, which suits the bigger teams that we generally came up against in Division 1B.
"At the same time, it affects your confidence when you aren't playing to your potential, but we got a lot of that back when we played Tipp in the semi-final.
"We weren't tuned in at all for the first ten minutes, we went ten points down, but we fought back well and could have nicked it in the end.
"I'd say that was the turning point of the season for us, and there's huge expectation there now after we won the Munster title. That brings its own pressure, of course, but you have to be able to deal with that if you are going to be rated as a really good team."
Kearney accepts that Tipp will carry a lot of momentum after coming through a few big tests in the qualifiers and he describes them as a "super side" when they hit top form.
"They have some of the best forwards in the country and we are fully aware that if they're not marked tightly they will cause havoc, but we will take great confidence from winning the Munster championship, and we feel there's an awful lot more in us.
"We had a good year in 2013 without winning anything, we're a very young side, and we're convinced we are capable of beating any team on a given day. I think we're definitely stronger this year, as the likes of Alan Cadogan, Mark Ellis, Bill Cooper and Aidan Walsh have been unbelievable additions to the team.
"They have been our best players in the last couple of game, and, from a personal point of view, I'm delighted that Aidan decided to come on board with us this year, because we have developed a very good understanding at midfield," he concluded.