Curran eager to end Cork trophy drought
Holy Trinity's helmet expert in determined mood for showdown with Tribesmen
HEARD the one about the inter-county hurler who was so desperate to get acclimatised to the now-mandatory helmets that he was spotted wearing one around while driving?
Apocryphal it may be, but that story was definitely doing the rounds last winter.
It certainly makes Ronan Curran chuckle and the Cork centre-back has seen first-hand what lengths some players have taken to get used to wearing the helmets that became compulsory, at all levels, last January.
"I haven't actually heard of anyone driving with one, but we (Cork) were playing a game of basketball in training one night and the lads who were trying to get used to them left the helmets on while they were playing," he revealed.
"On the club scene, I'd know a few fellas who were actually wearing them watching television!"
There's nothing Curran doesn't know about helmets, because hurling also provides the day-job. He works for the Ballincollig company Mycro Sportswear, whose GAA-approved helmets are among the most popular around and certainly the most innovative.
The rangy defender from St Finbarr's feels senior players have acclimatised more quickly to the new rule than expected, though the heat of championship battle will surely test that theory. "It was a big change for some at the start and fellas would do anything to get used to them, but I think everyone has," he said.
Even goalkeepers? "Anthony Nash, with us, always wore a helmet anyway, but the other two lads seem to be getting on fine with it," he said.
"We are always looking to innovate and, with goalies in mind, we have looked at getting visors inside the face-guard.
"But you can't change the guard itself because of the safety standards. We already have the guard pushed to the maximum specifications; there's very little space to manoeuvre so that will be a very long process."
Something on which he can have a far more immediate effect, as one third of a famous half-back line, is the Galway attack tomorrow.
Despite the glory of the early Noughties, this is Cork's first final of consequence in four years and their first league decider since 2002. They haven't actually won it since 1998, which probably indicates where their previous emphasis lay, but given their internal upheavals, particularly last season's bitter strike, a league title is no longer anything to be sniffed at.
Curran certainly wasn't muttering "ah sure, 'tis only the league" when he attended the launch of the FBD All-Ireland Golf Challenge this week.
"You don't want to lose to any team, especially if there's a chance you might meet them in the championship," he stressed. "It's all about confidence and we would be better off if we win it. We haven't been in a final in a few years now (the 2006 All-Ireland), so it would be nice to get that win.
"Obviously, the championship game against Tipperary down the line is the big thing, but this will be a big game for us and it might bring on a lot of the younger fellas in the team especially."
It's certainly not lost on him that John McIntyre's side have beaten them in their last two meetings.
Their clash in the last round of the league two weeks ago, when they had both already qualified, can be discounted, but there is that little matter of their defeat in Thurles last July.
"In our last two games Galway beat us by seven points each time, so we will be up against it, but it will be a different game if we meet them later in the year, when the pitches are that bit drier and people have done that bit more training," he noted.
It was, notably, Cork's half-back axis of himself, John Gardiner and Sean Og O hAilpin that ultimately snuffed out the Tribesmen in the 2005 All-Ireland final.
Curran, with corner-back Brian Murphy and Niall McCarthy, remains one of the few senior survivors from Cork's All-Ireland winning minors of 1998, but he's also a good footballer and played U-21 for the county.
With the 'Barrs, who won the intermediate title in 2008 and contested the senior decider last year, he has actually played in county football finals for the past two years.
Yet he is best known as a hurler and part of Cork's 'old guard' who contested four All-Ireland senior finals in a row this decade.
Their half-backs are, noticeably, the only line that still remains fully intact and, with a combined age of 88 years, have now clocked up a lot of mileage.
Yet manager Denis Walsh admitted this week that it was his absolute priority this season to return his 'Holy Half-Back Trinity' to the height of their powers.
"Everyone looks at that half-back line and says 'should it be broken up?' Am I the guy to break it up?" he mused.
"We rotated it around a bit (during the league), but the one guy that has played centre-back is Ronan. He's been excellent and he's 29. Sean Og (32) is one of the fittest guys we have, and John (27) is right back to where he belongs."
Yet having made their name in a team which famously pioneered the short-passing running game, they now find themselves in a different place.
Walsh's introduction of the Rebel's 'twin towers' up front has undoubtedly changed Cork's style, so how have they adapted?
"Aisake (O hAilpin) and Michael (Cussen) are a great option for us," Curran said. "As a half-back, when you know you have a big target-man at full-forward, your job becomes a bit easier clearing the ball up the pitch and so on.
"But whoever we have in there is going to be a threat to the opposition," he warned ominously.
As Walsh says of his legendary half-back heroes: "It's up to the opposition to crack them."
- Entries are now open for the FBD All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge for teams of four from GAA clubs; the event culminates in Faithlegg House, Waterford on September 10-12.
The provincial qualifiers take place on May 28 (Munster, Dromoland Castle), June 11 (Ulster, Concra Wood in Monaghan), July 2 (Leinster, Palmerstown House, Kildare) and July 23 (Connacht, Loughrea). All details on www.gaagolf.ie