It’s a roller coaster, you just keep going – Masters
James Masters looks at inter-county football now and barely recognises it.
When he played, players like him were encouraged. Teams were built around natural score-getters like Masters. For a few years in the middle of the 2000s, he was Cork’s go-to man but that’d hardly be the case now.
Masters was a lot of things but, by his own admission, being hungry for graft was never one of them.
“I didn’t have the greatest work ethic and I suppose the time when the GPS came into the training tops, I began to suffer!” he smiled.
“I’ll be honest, I actually remember one training session and they actually said to me, ‘You only run fast when you’re getting the ball’. The likes of Daniel (Goulding) and Colm (O’Neill) were making the continual three or four runs at 90pc and I was making two runs at 40pc.
“But, look, everyone is different. My best attributes are that when I get the ball into my hand at close range I can shoot straight off the bat, no bouncing.”
Masters is still tipping away with Nemo Rangers but he sees at club level a similar obsession with physical fitness. At times, he says, it outweighs even the ability to complete simple tasks with the ball.
“I think it’s gone to a certain extent with club football. You’re marking hybrids, you could be on the worst corner-back in the world but you’re trying to push away from him and you’re feeling a six pack while he’s grabbing a bit of (bulge) around your waist!
“I remember marking your man from Monaghan, Dessie Mone, and I remember the first ball and he was grabbing at me and saying, ‘You have a bit of fat there, do ya?’
“The Nemo lads are phenomenal athletes now as well as footballers. That’s probably the good thing about Nemo. Because you have certain teams in Cork who come up with the tight tops and the muscles but they can’t kick the ball.”
Nemo are kings of Cork again and with Kerry legend Tomás ó Sé in tow, who Masters says is like a “god” around the club, the city outfit are going in search of their 16th Munster title. And a win over Tipperary champions Clonmel Commercials in Mallow on Sunday would put them ten clear of Kerry’s Dr Crokes at the top of the provincial roll of honour.
But even for a club as experienced as Nemo, this campaign has been unusual. In the Munster quarter-final they beat Waterford’s Stradbally who had only won their county title the night before. And in the semi-final, they saw off a Legion side that had more than an eye on winning the Kerry SFC final replay the following weekend.
Now they face a Clonmel side looking to continue the upward curve for Tipperary football and secure a first Munster club title for the county.
“Maybe other clubs don’t, but with Nemo we do and the ultimate goal is to get to Croke Park. But Clonmel are definitely going to put it up to us on Sunday, compared to Legion who maybe had their mind on the Kerry championship and Stradbally who had it unfair,” he reasoned.
“There is tradition in Nemo and you want to go on and win. But this year especially when you haven’t been winning in so long we wanted to win the county first. It’s kind of like a conveyor or roller coaster, you just keep going.”