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'We Talked About Choices, But I Don’t See What I’m Doing As A Choice'

'We Talked About Choices, But I Don’t See What I’m Doing As A Choice'
By Gary Connaughton Updated

Patrick Horgan is one of the greatest players ever to pull on a Cork jersey. Over the course of a 14-year inter-county career, he has put in some incredible performances for the county.

He is without doubt among the most skilled hurlers in the country. Despite now approaching his mid-30s, there haven't been many suggestions that his powers are dwindling.

Of course, you could also make the argument that Horgan is a tad unfortunate that he was born into the current era of hurling in the Munster county. Had he been one of their key men in decades gone by, the Glen Rovers clubman would have been racking up the All-Ireland medals by now.

Unfortunately, he has found himself caught in the midst of the longest Liam MacCarthy drought in the Cork's history.  Despite all of this, there is no sign of his love for the sport dissipating.

Speaking to Balls at the launch of Centra's ‘Choices Define Us’ campaign, Hoggie said that he sees inter-county hurling as a way of life.

When I came onto the scene first I would have trained a lot and loved doing it. We talked about choices, but I don’t see what I’m doing as a choice. I love doing what I do, I do it as often as I can.

If I say to someone who is not in that circle in terms of playing sport, they say it’s mental that you train everyday or for this long. It sounds crazy, but I love going training in the evening. It’s not a hard choice to make...

I was chatting to Ursula Walsh (health and nutrition coach) beforehand, and she was just asking how often I train. I was telling her and she said ‘how does your wife put up with that’. She said she would be gone like a rocket! For me, it’s my way of life.

I know no different.

Cork Hurler Patrick Horgan was speaking at the launch of the Centra ‘Choices Define Us’ campaign

While the forward has always put as much as he possibly could into hurling, the demands that have been placed on inter-county players have no doubt changed over the last decade-and-a-half. More emphasis is put on conditioning, with panel members expected to maximise their physical potential as well as their skillset.

On a personal level, many players are now more tuned as to what it requires to stay at the very top level for longer. At 33-years old, Horgan wants to stay in peak condition for as long as humanly possible. That can be as much of a mental endeavour as it is a physical one.

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As a big fan of Tom Brady, he doesn't have to look too far for inspiration in the world of top level sport. Horgan said that while watching the NFL quarterback from a distance is one thing, seeing him play in the flesh is an altogether different experience.

With him, I always admired what he could do in being at the top of his sport.

I went to see him five or six times in Boston and when you go to a game your eyes are completely opened. There is this fella who is one of the biggest names in America and one of the best sportspeople of all-time, you go to a game and everyone is there to see him.

All the jerseys are sold for him, all the hype around the game is about him, but he can still come out and perform the way he performs at the age he does. It’s mind-blowing stuff...

Anyone who is at the top of their game and able to sustain it for so long is an inspiration.

The snooker is on the telly at the moment, Ronnie O’Sullivan is doing the same. He shouldn’t be at where he is, but he is because of his class. Obviously you’ve got Tiger Woods in the golf, there is someone for every sport. When you think about it, what they are doing is really, really special.

It would be a dream for anyone to be able to do that, play at the top level of professional sport for 20 or 30 years.

When it comes to quantifying success in his own career, Horgan is perhaps more focused on that longevity than he is on the obvious hole in his trophy cabinet.

The Cork man has won numerous honours at inter-county level, including three Munster championships and four All-Stars. However, it is the lack of a Celtic Cross that is often brought up when discussing what his legacy in a Cork jersey may one day be. Often dubbed as the best player never to win an All-Ireland, it is perhaps the most annoying comment that a competitor of Horgan's ilk could receive.

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Having welcomed a new son into world last week, there is no danger of a loss of perspective on his behalf.

He won't allow this particular conversation to consume him. While an All-Ireland triumph would of course be a dream come true, that is not what will define him as a hurler. If Liam MacCarthy had become an all-encompassing obsession, he probably would have walked away from the sport a long time ago.

This is the truth, I keep saying this to people and my mind wouldn’t change if I were to win an All-Ireland.

I’ve been playing for the Cork senior team now for 15 years. Winning an All-Ireland isn’t the reason I play hurling. Obviously it’s the dream and it’s top of the tree, but I honestly feel that if I wasn’t enjoying the game and was just here to win an All-Ireland, then I wouldn’t enjoy anything.

I prefer going training, enjoying who I’m with, trying to get better, talking to friends that I’ve met over the years playing with Cork. I think all that is way more important.

If we do end up winning it, I would be absolutely over the moon. But that would be just one memory, I prefer to have 15 years of memories.

There are a lot of ups and downs in GAA, so I won't go out and start saying ‘if I don’t win an All-Ireland it’s not a success’, it’s just a success to do what I’m doing. Nobody gets paid to play this sport, so I’m just enjoying it. We work all day and that’s the serious thing, so when we go out and play hurling that should be all about fun and enjoyment.

That’s the way I try to look at.

This year's quest for that medal has not begun in an ideal fashion. Despite a good league campaign, Cork found themselves well off the pace in their Munster opener against Limerick.

The round robin offers a chance for the county to bounce back, and having had last weekend off, they will now face Clare in a potentially decisive fixture against Clare in Thurles on Sunday afternoon.

Horgan feels that one of the benefits of the current format is that a team cannot linger on a result for too long, either in a positive or negative sense. A failure to move on to the next challenge could be fatal in what is an incredibly competitive province.

Every game is a big one in the Munster championship, there are no easy games. There are no pushovers and anyone can beat anyone, I’ve said that a lot of times.

There are no weak teams around at the moment, throughout Ireland there are probably eight teams that no matter who beats who, you wouldn’t be surprised. That’s good for hurling.

For us, we can’t focus on anybody but ourselves, we were disappointed the last day but we’re trying to correct it...

Usually if there was a break of five weeks, you would be depressed for the first two weeks because you were beaten. If you had won, you’d probably be on too much of a high for two weeks.

Now you can’t be too high or to low, as soon as the final whistle is blown on a Sunday it’s all about the following Sunday and preparing for that. That’s the good thing.

Regardless of how the remainder of the championship plays out, Horgan won't change too much in his goals.

Hurling for him is a way of life, but winning is not the only thing that he cares about. As the old saying goes, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

*****

Cork Hurler Patrick Horgan was speaking at the launch of the Centra ‘Choices Define Us’ campaign. To mark the launch of this campaign, Centra commissioned an in-depth study to provide a deeper understanding of the choices people are making in Ireland. To mark the launch Centra hosted a panel discussion featuring Horgan along with broadcaster and performer Paul Ryder, health and nutrition coach Ursula Walsh and chef and restaurateur JP McMahon.

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