Sunday 26 May 2019

Harnedy comes of age as a real leader

Diarmuid Sheehan spoke with Cork captain Seamus Harnedy after his sensational performance in the Munster hurling final

Cork captain Seamus Harnedy is a doubt for Limerick semi-final
Cork captain Seamus Harnedy is a doubt for Limerick semi-final

Sometimes it is difficult to identify just how important and influential a captain can be to a side chasing glory.

Some captains choose the fire and brimstone method of igniting their colleagues as they head into and engage in battle, others prefer the quieter approach letting players get on with their individual jobs and then there are those that let their work on the pitch be the catalyst.

Last Sunday in front of a packed house in Thurles Cork's Seamus Harnedy took the latter approach and all in red and white saw the birth of a genuine leader.

Few could argue that the St Ita's man isn't a hugely talented hurler, of that there is no doubt, but the way the attacker took the game by the scruff last weekend, putting in a man of the match display, was breath-taking and worthy of a true leader.

After lifting the trophy and uttering the immortal rallying cry of "Rebels Abú" Harnedy spoke to a media scrum that just couldn't get enough of what the hurling star had to say.

While the overall team performance could do with a bit of work Harnedy believes that the influence of two of the younger stars before the break turned the game Cork's way.

"In fairness to Luke's [Meade] selfless running, the amount of work he does off the ball for other fellows is exemplary and today he just turned up at the right place and his execution of the opportunity was unbelievable, cool and calm - you just couldn't have asked for a better person in that scenario.

"The untold work he does for us off the ball is frightening and fair play to him he got his just rewards today. All that and Coleman [Mark] got a brilliant side-line before the break it was immense. We knew we hadn't played well in the first half and getting it from eight points down to four was hugely important."

Going into the championship and been written off by many didn't bother Harnedy who believes it is what is going on inside the panel is what is important.

"You can't really listen to what is going on outside. We had to focus on ourselves and try improving every day as a player and as a team. That's all you can do. A bit of hard work in training helps. You just can't listen too much; if you do it will just eat you up."

Harnedy has been delighted the way the championship has worked out for him as Captain but spreads the praise around to the other leaders in the group.

"It has been a great format for me personally this year but being captain doesn't really matter to me. I take it the same in every game but you need a lot of leaders beside you and when you have the likes of Patrick Horgan, Bill Cooper, Anthony Nash and Conor Lehane around you they help, they have more experience than I do, they are great men to have alongside you. My role is similar to other years, but yes I am enjoying it and I love helping the younger lads."

The achievement of winning the title in the first year of the round robin has made it all the better for Cork's hurling elite.

"It has been a really tough championship with four games in five weeks. Four incredibly hard games and then that final today but really, we enjoyed the format. Of course, we would be a bit bias the way it turned out but that is the end of the Munster Championship now and we will need to turn to the All-Ireland. Four weeks won't be long coming and we need to focus on that now."

Harnedy didn't feel that the performance ticked all the boxes and believes there is room to improve for his team.

"We didn't feel we performed to our full potential in the semi-final last year and we'll have to rectify that. We will need to work on the areas that we weren't great in today."

Harnedy has been enjoying hurling every week but after the exploits last weekend the captain is happy with time to heal.

"Given the conditions today it is going to take a while to recover. That was probably one of the worst conditions I have ever had to play in. The heat was absolutely cruel. It was in your face, there was no air.

"The pitch was also burned up but in fairness to the Semple Stadium caretakers, they have been working hard, piling on the water and to be fair I don't think there would be too many pitches in the country as good as this one was today."

Seamus will get back to basics over the next few weeks and prepare for what will be a seminal moment in his Cork captaincy.