McCabe keeps his eye on the ball

Timmy Sheehan spoke with new Kerry hurling captain Aidan McCabe about the development of his game and the tests ahead

New Kerry captain Aiden McCabe. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
New Kerry captain Aiden McCabe. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

When Aidan McCabe started his hurling career in Lixnaw he hardly envisaged that he would follow in the footsteps of another iconic number one Johnny Conway who also captained Kerry and provided him with the advice on the basics and fundamentals of being a top class keeper, a position where mistakes are magnified, more so than any other position on the pitch.

He wasn't an overnight success, but, he gradually developed into one of Kilmoyley's and Kerry's most outstanding players. He captained Kilmoyley to championship success this past season and, now, aged twenty nine he looks to be suitably equipped in all facets of play and his laid back demeanour suggests that he is well capable of taking the role of captaincy in his stride, and being a pivotal figure for the Kingdom this season.

It's been a long season for the Kilmoyley players, and, given the demands of inter-county hurling, it doesn't leave much time for socialising or relaxation, and also involves balancing one's everyday working situation.

"When we finished with Kilmoyley I took, I suppose three or four weeks just to relax, and, kind of get my head around just going back into Kerry again, so, I suppose the break did us well, we were playing late in the year so we needed some bit.

"We all took more or less the same. There's not [much time to socialise], that comes with it. Where I am working I have a schedule for Kerry and a schedule for work. I have to swap both of them, each knows where I am. It makes it easier I suppose when you have schedules to work around it, so that you are not all over the place."

A new management team, the chore of winter hurling and the challenge of testing one's self against some of the big guns are just some of the issues which players have had to address and cope with.

"It's a new face, new drills, and stuff like that, it's getting used to Fintan [O'Connor] and Fintan getting used to us," he explains.

"I suppose that's what the last couple of weeks have been about and it's going well so far anyway. The ground can be fairly soft all right, you just get used to it after a while, it will be soft as well the next day, so, you just have to get used to it.

"We have Laois first, Limerick, Wexford, Galway at home, but look you have to play the big teams, to push on and get better. All the rest of the teams started from somewhere as well, so, it's about time we stepped up and pushed forward and see where we go."

It can certainly be disheartening when there is a lack of support on the terraces and in the stands, and the Kerry hurlers have at times suffered a lot in this regard down the years.

"It's very important, you come out you hear the roar, it makes all the difference. There's no point being inside in goals looking up at an empty stand, it's kind of disheartening, but when you have people coming up to you and everything you would be surprised what difference it makes to a player."

The role of captain in Gaelic games is great honour obviously, but, might not have the same level of responsibility as other codes. Still, it does put the spotlight on the player who is selected and awarded the distinction of leading his county.

"When I was captain of Kilmoyley you would be talking to different fellows and they would be telling you about captaincy and telling me what they done. I suppose if you read too much into it you are kind of your own worst enemy.

"What I found with Kilmoyley, I kind of just let it flow. I said a few bits in the dressing room, I didn't go too mad! I suppose when I was being nominated I don't know what way I was looking at it. I suppose just lucky to step up, and say your bit, try to lead from the back, and we will go from there. Captain of Kerry is a bit more pressure, but, we will do our best. I find I wouldn't be a natural leader, so, I would have to work at it more."

For goalkeepers it's very much the last man standing. There's a term used in other codes of the position now being described as a sweeper keeper, and certainly the role has evolved significantly in recent years.

"I wouldn't be the best for short puck outs. When I was growing up all along it was just catch the ball and puck it as far as you can. I suppose it never really changed until the last couple of years.

"It was the same even with Kilmoyley, it wasn't as much, but it's probably a lot more with Kerry. But, if you have confidence in the backs and the backs have confidence in you that you would put it bang into their hand, it just all kind of falls into place.

"After that the longer ball is harder, but when you have the likes of the two O'Learys or Podge Boyle up there it is easier to puck it out to a bigger fellow than it is to a smaller fellow. You have to be top notch in everything, talking, just reading the game, you have to step up and try to be better at it."

After the Munster League the focus is now firmly on Laois on this coming weekend.

"Since the Munster League we have been targeting Laois and building up to that so that's what our focus will be now for next Sunday. A few of the boys have been injured so we will have a good week training this week, name the team Thursday or Friday and go from there."

The season will certainly test Kerry's capabilities, but, the ambition must be, at least, to equal last year's success and endeavour to go a step further in both competitions.

"Yeah I suppose if we went one better from last year, just do as good as I can, doing as best I can for the team and enjoy it. I found last year especially with Kilmoyley we were always the underdog which I think is nearly better.

"You are always going to be an underdog with Kerry, so, I think that gives you a better chance. If everybody works together, pushes on together, defends and does everything together you have a better chance."

Kerryman

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