Lar Corbett - 'The Tipp train is pulling out and I want to be on it'
Corbett desperate to get back on track after injuries
LAR Corbett reckons he's due a break some time soon. This summer, perhaps, for Tipperary's 2010 Hurler of the Year. He can relate 2013 in just a few short lines, in keeping with a wholly underwhelming campaign.
"Got sent off in the league final and broke two ribs," he says. "Missed all the training before the Limerick match, came on for the last two minutes. Played then in Nowlan Park and pulled a hamstring, year over again."
Not much more to it than that, regrettably.
"Another disaster and then another disaster this year," he adds. "It's unreal, isn't it? Waiting for a break."
Corbett's latest problem first surfaced in January, before Tipp played Kerry in a Waterford Crystal Cup fixture. A small bit of discomfort in his left knee but nothing to worry about, he thought.
"Sometimes I'd have a small bit of pain in a knee or hamstring or my back," he explains. "You say to yourself, I'll get over that, I'll work that out. I wasn't able to work this out, wasn't able to get rid of it.
"Then I knew that this wasn't one of these normal ones. It was sore – I had to do something about it."
And so Corbett embarked on a tour of Ireland in an attempt to get to the root of the problem. The solution was provided by Professor Steve Eustace in Dublin, who detected fluid in the knee and attacked the problem from the front of the joint.
Prof Eustace injected Corbett with a mix that will hopefully take him through the summer.
"He said leave it for five, six, seven days and go back light running," Corbett explains. "It seems that his injection has worked."
That was over a month ago and Corbett was fit enough to complete the pre-match warm up when Tipp lost to Kilkenny in the league final on May 4.
Eight days ago, he came on towards the end of a comfortable victory for Thurles Sarsfields in the local 'Mid' championship against Upperchurch-Drombane and on Tuesday evening, he played the full game against Waterford in a behind-closed-doors challenge in Thurles.
"I always feel fit enough," Corbett confirms. "I feel good. A lot of it is freshness, positive energy. And a lot of it is wanting to be involved, wanting to get back, wanting to do it, wanting to put the gear into the bag at home.
"Adrenalin comes from that and a bit of hunger and aggression builds up then.
"That's what you want. I feel all that."
Limerick on June 1 is the big target and as things stand, Corbett's on track. But he concedes: "I'm after missing out on an awful lot. All I can do is take every day as it comes.
"I'm just going to put my best foot forward. I won't think about what's realistic or giving myself a time-frame. I had to come away from that.
"Since January, I was giving myself a time-frame, or someone else was. Try to get back for a league match and every time I didn't get back for it, it was a disappointment.
"Do what I can do today, train how I can and when the management think that I'm right to offer something, okay.
"Giving myself time-frames, I'm only setting myself up for another disappointment."
Having his knee injected was a necessary evil but so far, so good on that score.
"I was very nervous about getting an injection or taking something out of it," Corbett admits. "You're placing your body in the trust of somebody else. If it doesn't work, where do you go then?"
Corbett's worry is understandable. He has been on a difficult road since 2012, when Tipp were hosed by 18 points against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final.
There was Tommy Walsh, and all that, and 2013 saw Corbett, Kilkenny and controversy hit the dance floor once again.
He was sent off along with JJ Delaney in a raucous league final at Nowlan Park, suffering two broken ribs in the process.
"What happened? Myself and JJ just got tangled up in each other for a second on the ground, which happens," Corbett reflects. "I fell awkwardly on my hurley and it broke the two ribs."
When the sides met again in July, Corbett's day ended prematurely once more. Injury, this time, as a pulled hamstring saw him limp off six minutes before half-time.
Corbett had scored a goal before his departure and was a constant thorn in the Kilkenny full-back line. Home supporters knew it too. Perhaps that's why some of them reacted with such glee to his departure.
After the game, fire danced in Tipp manager Eamon O'Shea's eyes as he spoke to reporters outside a desolate dressing-room. Inside, Corbett and his team-mates were trying to come to terms with the emotion of it all.
"It was hugely disappointing because we went down to win," Corbett reflects. "You have to remember that Eamon, Paudie (O'Neill) and Mick (Ryan) were coming back into a panel in 2013 trying to get it back together, trying to get the show on the road.
"It's like coming in taking over a business. You have to see where are you, who do you have, who's with you, who's not with you, how to get everyone together and put your own stamp on it.
"That doesn't happen overnight. That's in any team or anything you're ever involved in.
"It's a huge undertaking to come in and take over a system when you want to get people thinking different and doing things different. That's only happening now."
Tipp may have lost but Corbett loved the buzz as Nowlan Park heaved and hummed an hour before throw-in.
Days like that are why he came back again, why he scoured the country for answers when his knee wasn't getting better, why he stayed patient as the league passed him by.
It's clear that O'Shea wants him involved, even though Corbett insists that he could have had few complaints if he was slowly phased out.
He concedes: "It would be very easy to say at 33 years of age, 'look Larry, we don't think it's working out, the knee is at you for the last four months, we don't think you have anything to offer, a few new guys at the minute, coming like a train, thanks very much for your services', and hang up the phone. Easy.
"I don't ever worry that will happen. If it happens, it happens. But the county board and management, anything they could have done to get the knee right, they have. I'm very grateful for that."
And if Corbett does play against Limerick, he'll go in with no preconceived notions, no expectations, no worries and no fear.
"I don't prepare myself for anything – I just go and do it," he says.
"If you prepare yourself for both sides of the coin, something else will happen. The coin will land on its edge.
"Thank God I've a short memory anyway – you just forget it, good or bad."
Limerick presents Tipp with the chance for redemption, after the Shannonsiders skittled them out of the Munster championship at the Gaelic Grounds last year.
Premier County supporters will crave revenge but Corbett insists: "It doesn't matter who comes out of the hat. It's still a huge challenge.
"You still have to remember that they beat us last year down in Limerick; the year before, they were seven points up with less than 20 minutes left.
"At the minute, we're chasing Limerick."
And it's a challenge that Corbett will relish. In some ways, he's making up for lost time.
Sitting around twiddling his thumbs from July onwards last year took a lot of getting used to.
"It was the first time since I got involved with the club and Tipp that we had nowhere to go, club or county," he reflects.
"You'd be at home for the first couple of weeks and saying on the Tuesday, Jesus, no, no, I have nothing on tonight.
"You'd question yourself. Is everything definitely gone?
"It's like the alarm clock. You set it for 7.0 because you have an important thing but you wake up at 6.30 because you're afraid of your life that you're going to miss it.
"We were so used to every Tuesday, Thursday all year round. If the club wasn't doing it, the county was doing it. Always doing it. It was strange, very strange."
But Corbett is confident that Tipp are back on the right track. From the outside looking in, the league filled him with optimism.
"Brendan Maher, Paudie Maher, Noel McGrath, 'Bonner' Maher – this is Tipperary now," Corbett declares.
"Sometimes you hear 'Tipp have one or two lads to come back.' There's nobody to come back – whoever comes back, comes back.
"There's a team there, a structure there and it's the train that's going. Whoever's going to get on it, get on it."
Corbett's waiting at the station, clutching his ticket.
"I want to be on the train – you always want to be on the train," he smiles, warming to the theme.
"When you lose, you're going to get stick and when you win, you're going to get praise.
"That's sport, that's natural. But you have to remember that Eamon O'Shea was still in the middle of getting these players and this panel back together again.
"Everyone believes in the system. Everyone has believed, still believes and will always believe in the system.
"There was no such thing as anyone thinking any different. I didn't need to think any different so whatever happens on the outside, that's fine.
"It's proven there now and it's going to be proven again that what everyone is doing is the right way – it's as simple as that."