Henry Shefflin on preparing to attend his first Munster final in the flesh
The process of detachment from life as an inter-county hurler quickened somewhat for me over the weekend.
Before retiring I could count on one hand the number of games at this level I would have gone to watch that didn't involve Kilkenny.
I'd often be asked why I wouldn't go to say, an All-Ireland semi-final to watch opponents who we'd be playing in the final. Could I not learn something from seeing the man who might be marking me in the flesh?
But after a tough week with work, recovery, training, maybe something with the club, you tend to want to sit down and relax on that Sunday and not get caught up in the distraction of another day out to Dublin. I existed in that bubble for the best part of 16 years, it suited me that way, focusing on my own game.
I honestly never had any urge to go to Croke Park to watch a game. If I was going there I felt it had to be as a player. I wasn't interested in being a supporter. I never saw it as a 'day out.'
It's only when you go to a venue like Wexford Park on a Saturday night, heaving and buzzing with anticipation, and meet the likes of Nickey English, John Conran,Tom Dempsey and Martin Storey, that you realise how much you have had your head down to these occasions in your time as a player.
Read his column in full in tomorrow's Irish Independent