Saturday 18 November 2017

Bergin: Captaincy won't change my approach but I want to start

Kilkenny team captain Mark Bergin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Kilkenny team captain Mark Bergin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Kilkenny is one of the few counties which still upholds the tradition of the senior captain coming from the county champions and it has thrown up the possibility of 2017 skipper Mark Bergin sitting on the sidelines for the majority of League and Championship.

As the most experienced county panellist from O'Loughlin Gaels, Bergin takes up the role and will hope to succeed where Michael Fennelly and Lester Ryan struggled when steering the Cats and get consistent game time come summer.

Fennelly spoke of a newspaper headline in 2009 which labelled him an "invisible captain" when he struggled to make an impact before coming on in the last quarter of that year's final against Tipperary and helping Kilkenny over the line en route to lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

He labelled it a "horrible" time as he wrestled with fulfilling his duties and while Bergin doesn't want to be remembered as a non-playing captain, he feels the added responsibility won't place extra pressure on his shoulders to nail down a starting place and he doesn't plan on changing his routine too much.

"It's no real big deal," Bergin said at Kilkenny's Glanbia sponsorship launch. "It changes nothing in terms of the Kilkenny set-up, you just go in and you work hard and there's leaders there already. You're not expected to do anything different.

"You're just expected to work hard and you're in the wrong place if you're happy to sit on the bench. You're there because you want to work hard and add to Kilkenny, add to the team. You only do that by starting and that's what you want.

"It's not something that I've sat down and said, 'I have to do this or that'. It's just up to myself and the lads around to do the talking as well. I might not necessarily be a talker, but if you work hard you'll get the rewards and that's what the plan is. There's no change to last year really."

The 27-year-old, who recently underwent ankle surgery and will miss the opening rounds of the League, has the unique distinction of being one of the few players dropped by Brian Cody before later being recalled and 2016 was a whirlwind year.

He went from thinking his Kilkenny days were behind him after getting the dreaded phone call from Cody in 2013 to making his Championship debut in an electrifying All-Ireland semi-final replay just months after being recalled to the squad due to his outstanding club form.

Experience has taught him to enjoy his second stint in black and amber but after sitting out the All-Ireland final when overlooked for selection, and stewing in their subsequent defeat, the free-scoring attacker is mad for road in 2017.

"You probably think it's the be-all and end-all as a young lad to play senior hurling for Kilkenny. When time's up for you back then you just have to get back enjoying it and doing the basics and you appreciate it a hell of a lot more.

"It's a great buzz off it, it won't last forever, you don't know when your time is up so you just try and savour it and enjoy the hard work and see where it gets you."

Irish Independent

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