Gardiner still feeling 'hard done by' over JBM snub
IT'S a year since John Gardiner sat in the Cusack Stand and vowed that next year would be different – he just didn't know how different it would be.
Twelve months ago, he was not happy with the paltry 20 minutes of championship action he saw in 2012. A virtual ever-present since joining the panel in 2002, he had played only a bit part.
"I still think I have something to offer," he asserted, looking ahead to a 2013 campaign that would never come for him. Of all the defections and exclusions from the Cork panel, Gardiner's was particularly unexpected. On Leeside, the rumour mill whirrs around the Rebels' panel and while there were signs, his exclusion still raised eyebrows.
After all, unlike Sean Og O hAilpin and Donal Og Cusack, Gardiner had time on his side. When the provisional Cork panel that excluded the Na Piarsaigh man was announced last November, he was still just 29.
Even allowing for his limited involvement in the previous campaign, Gardiner surely had something to offer. O hAilpin had just retired, and given the way he had forced his way back the previous summer, there would be a gap in the half-back line and a dearth of experience.
"Maybe (I feel) a little hard done by," Gardiner reflected, as preparations for the first International Hurling Festival, hosted by Aer Lingus in partnership with Etihad Airways, ramp up.
"We have given our life to the thing really since I broke onto the panel at 19, for 10 years or 11 seasons. I would have liked if it was my own decision. It just didn't work out that way."
There might have been a chance to jump before he was pushed, but Gardiner believes no one would have bought that story anyway. And besides, Jimmy Barry-Murphy told him that if his club form warranted it, there'd be a call up. During the league, a recall was touted but even as Cork suffered relegation, Gardiner's phone stayed silent.
Was he now playing for the price for being one of the leading figures in the Cork disputes of the previous decade?
"We were seen as the front runners in the whole thing, even though the panel was unanimous," he said.
"I happened to be captain of the team when all that stuff was going on so my name is out there a lot more than other guys. Look, I asked (Barry-Murphy) the question straight up, was there anything in it and he said there wasn't. He said it wasn't anything like that."
Does he believe him?
"That's for ye to decide I suppose, I don't know."
He has kept hurling away, playing centre-back for the club, flanked by Sean Og and current county player Christopher Joyce as they prepare for a county quarter-final in a few weeks' time. The end though, he agrees, justifies the means and he's been in the stand as Cork negotiated their way to Sunday's All-Ireland final.
"It's good to see the boys doing well and when you have played with them you only wish them every success. There are guys on the team that deserve medals and they have a great chance."