Kilkenny skipper Larkin parks Army duties to sit Leaving Cert
KILKENNY hurling captain Eoin Larkin is taking nine months off his regular Army duties to study for his Leaving Certificate.
Larkin dropped out of school as a teenager but has returned to sit the exams at 27 years of age.
He is taking English, Irish, maths, history and geography, and his packed academic schedule meant that he had to take a complete break from his career as an Army officer.
First up for Larkin is the Leaving Cert in June before he turns his full attention to Kilkenny's defence of their Leinster and All-Ireland crowns.
Larkin admitted that his decision to leave school after the Junior Cert is something he has regretted ever since.
And the James Stephens clubman is keen to make up for lost time -- he is busy swotting at Cork College of Commerce on a full-time basis.
Larkin has based himself at Cork's Collins Barracks to attend school five days a week and he said: "It's very different. I didn't want to be in school when I was in it. I chose to go back and when you're that bit older, you're more inclined to learn.
"I'm actually enjoying it, believe it or not. The travelling up for training and things like that is tough but I'm enjoying doing the Leaving Cert. I didn't do it when I was supposed to do it!
"I just try to keep my head down, do my bit of work and go home."
The former Hurler of the Year recalled: "I did the Junior Cert and left after that. I couldn't wait to get out of the place. I did three years of an apprenticeship and then the Army came up -- I went in there, the rest is history.
"I haven't really decided what I'm going to do (afterwards). The opportunity arose and I said I'd take it.
"I haven't spoken to the Army about going to college or anything like that but they provided me with the opportunity to go and do the Leaving Cert. I said I'd give it a go. I'm under no pressure anyway -- I have a job to go back to."
When Larkin's exams are completed, he'll return to the James Stephens Army barracks in Kilkenny city.
Larkin's next major date is on June 23, when Kilkenny tackle Dublin, Laois or Carlow in the Leinster SHC semi-final.
And going on Kilkenny's early season form, it's a test that the Noresiders are expected to pass with flying colours.
Last Sunday, Larkin was one of eight Kilkenny players to capture an interprovincial medal as Leinster cruised to victory over Connacht.
Kilkenny, beaten Allianz National League finalists last year, captured two early-season points with a comprehensive victory against Tipperary in the opening round of fixtures.
Larkin, holder of seven Leinster and five All-Ireland medals, has the added responsibility of captaining the Kilkenny team following his club's success in last year's county championship.
And the two-time All Star admits that even the Kilkenny players themselves have been taken aback by their astonishing early-season form.
He said: "It started off in the Walsh Cup with a good performance against Galway. That kind of surprised us and we carried it on into the Tipp game, another good performance."
Larkin was on fire and scored 1-2 as Kilkenny demolished Tipp at Nowlan Park in what was a repeat of last year's All-Ireland final.
And the classy wing-forward insists that the Cats are going all out to regain the League title they last won in 2009.
"We'd always try to win what we can. The League is there to be won so we'll be doing our best to win," he said.
On Sunday, Kilkenny are expected to claim a second victory of the campaign against a depleted Waterford side at Walsh Park.
But Larkin insisted: "It will be a tough game between neighbouring counties. And they'll be well up for it after losing their first game.
"It has the makings of a great game but if you have any ambitions of making a League semi-finals and final, you need to be winning most of your matches.
"And we'll be going down to win again next Sunday.
"It's early days but we're happy enough with where we are at the moment. We're doing a lot of physical training and maybe not as much hurling as we'd like at this time of year.
"Maybe lads are after looking after themselves a bit better over winter, getting a bit cuter as lads get older. But we're happy enough with where we are and you can't complain any day you go out against Tipperary and win."
Once again, the ultimate aim for Kilkenny is All-Ireland glory on the first Sunday in September.
And Larkin admits that last year's victory over Tipp meant a lot after the Premier County denied Kilkenny the five-in-a-row in 2010.
"There was a lot of talk after 2010 that Kilkenny were finished and on the slide. We knew we had to put our heads down last year and Tipperary are a fantastic team," he said.
"We did the hard work and eventually it paid off in the end -- it was a great achievement on our behalf to get back there and we thoroughly enjoyed it, but this year is another year again.
"Tipp are in the same boat we were in last year, and there will be other teams in the mix as well."