Dead-eye Goulding has Dublin in sights
JONNY WILKINSON had imagined himself kicking the winning score in a rugby World Cup final before he managed it for real in 2003, but he can't have thought he would ever play a part in the closing stages of an All-Ireland decider.
As Cork's Daniel Goulding shaped up to his late, great kicks in September's final, he remembered Wilkinson's mantra of staying faithful to the same pre-kick routine regardless of the circumstance. And, with the clock ticking down in a packed Croke Park, he went through the usual steps as if it were a post-training kicking session in Pairc Ui Chaoimh with Colm O'Neill, Donncha O'Connor and John Hayes.
"I've read Jonny Wilkinson's book. He talks about taking the pressure out of the kick by creating a routine. What you're trying to do is forget about the situation you're in and concentrate on kicking the ball," he revealed yesterday.
"I always had a routine, but I probably let my mind wander a small bit over the years -- particularly at underage. When you get a bit more mature you get more used to it and you realise that it's not the situation you worry about, but kicking the ball.
"Our frees probably let us down in the past a small bit," added Goulding, who has trained with Dublin club Na Fianna recently due to work commitments.
"It comes down to getting used to the situation and getting more confident. You learn from past mistakes and learn to adapt to situations a bit better."
That routine held firm when he kept his head to help pick Kerry off in Tralee on the opening weekend of the league, but Goulding doesn't subscribe to Wilkinson's endless practice sessions.
The England out-half wrote in his book that he could kick the ball a thousand times in the lead-up to an important Test, even though he might just kick the ball 20 times in the 80 minutes of play, but Goulding sees the art of place kicking in a different light.
"We'd all put in a lot of work after training and we'd probably all do a small bit on our own. When the summer comes, lads would probably be kicking every second day. Maybe between 10 and 20 frees depending on things. I wouldn't be one of these fellas who'd be there for an hour, hour and a half because I think it takes the freshness out of it."
Goulding returns to the scene of his most memorable 70 minutes on Saturday when the Rebels travel to Croke Park for the league match with Dublin. Pat Gilroy's side came closer than most to halting Cork's gallop last year but the Eire Og man insists he never believed they would lose that game.
"We're taught to adapt to situations," he said. "The qualifier games last year, the Limerick game in particular and even the Wexford game, when we were in big trouble at half-time, have taught us how to adapt to situations. You could see in the Dublin game we didn't panic.
"In the All-Ireland final the year before, we did panic in the same situation but we just stuck at it rather than changing, panicking and shooting from outrageous positions. We stuck to what we're good at (against Dublin) -- running the ball, trying to create openings and we got the frees that won it for us."
Noel O'Leary will miss the weekend's clash through suspension but Paudie Kissane could return to action and after the Dubs' impressive win over Armagh, Goulding is expecting another stern test of the champions' credentials.
"Pat Gilroy has done a super job with them. At the same time there are probably another three or four teams there as well," added Goulding.
"When we were playing Kerry and Tyrone and these teams that had won All-Irelands we'd love nothing more than to knock them off their perch, and everyone is going to want to do that to us. So it's up to us not to rest on our laurels and work even harder this year."