Nash living dream as he finally settles into Cork No1 shirt
Published 20/02/2013 | 04:00
FINALLY, it appears the road has opened up in front of Anthony Nash.
He's the man in possession of the Cork No 1 jersey, with their Allianz National Hurling league campaign throwing-in against Tipperary on Saturday night under lights in Pairc Ui Rinn.
He had spent most of his inter-county career in the background until last year when he deputised for Donal Og Cusack and duly helped himself to an All Star award.
The years languishing behind Martin Coleman and Cusack in the pecking order tested him to the point where he was continually linked with a switch to Limerick, the county his uncles hurled for.
But the Kanturk goalkeeper persevered and a full six seasons since he made his championship debut in the famous hooped jersey, he finally starts a campaign as Cork's first-choice goalkeeper.
His bow came back in 2007 when Cusack was serving a suspension for his part in the 'Semplegate' controversy – Cork and Clare emerged from the tunnel at the same time and several flashpoints ensued.
Nash's dream turned sour and he picked the ball out of the net on five occasions that day as Dan Shanahan and Waterford went for the jugular against a Cork side also missing Sean Og O hAilpin and Diarmuid O'Sullivan.
Nash did little wrong that day but still spent most of the next few seasons watching and waiting, even when it didn't look like there was much to wait for.
"I was dreaming going into the game of keeping a clean sheet, playing a great game and going well," he recalls.
"About 15 minutes in I hit a free and it went straight into Fraggy's (Kieran Murphy) hand and he buried it.
"I was thinking to myself 'This is what it's about!', then a couple of minutes later I was picking a couple out of the back of the net.
"It was an experience, and even if I had the chance I wouldn't take it back.
"It was a tough day, it was, for myself and I felt bad for my family because I had been on the panel a few years at that stage and it's what I was waiting for, what I had dreamed of. That could very easily have been my only game for Cork."
But 2013 brings new territory. He has firmly established himself as No 1 after only getting in due to a serious injury to Cusack and Coleman's shaky display against Kilkenny in last year's league final.
"There were times," he admits, "to be brutally honest, that you would think to yourself 'Jesus what am I doing, it is tough going'.
"But I always hoped that one day I would get a chance – hope being the word – and the way last year turned out it was unexpected so that when I did take the opportunity, I enjoyed every minute of it."
In winning last year's All Star, Nash hastened a Cork institution towards the door. Cusack isn't on the league panel – Darren McCarthy is second choice – but Nash hailed the contribution of the Cloyne man.
"This is my seventh or eight year on the panel and every single step of the way he was there to try and improve me and get me through it – and even last year he even brought me up to Croke Park for the Dublin versus Laois football game just to get me used to the atmosphere before the Galway game because I had not played in Croke Park before," he says.
Nash carries the aura of a man living his dream, one that might just have easily passed him by.
He's 28 but jokes that he's 23 in 'goalkeeper years'. And having secured his position as Jimmy Barry-Murphy's No 1, he has set his sights on bigger prizes.
"I enjoyed the year and when I got the All Star to top of the year, it was a lovely thing – but ultimately you are measured in medals and that is what I would be hoping for this year."