When Shane Kingston joined the Cork hurling panel as an 18-year-old in 2016, he was not an unfamiliar face to those who'd populated the group in previous seasons.
The Douglas player is the son of current Cork hurling manager Kieran Kingston, who had been a selector under Jimmy Barry-Murphy in the early years of the last decade. When Cork reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2012 and the All-Ireland final the following year, the teenager was in attendance at training sessions, ensuring players were hydrated and never without a hurley.
"I kind of got to know them because when I was 13 or 14, and my old man was involved in 2012 and 2013, I was the little young fella running around giving them water and all that kind of stuff," he explains, speaking at the launch of Sports Direct's 'Born To Play' campaign.
"Then when I got older and went into it, they were very welcoming and I kind of knew them all anyway, so it was okay from that perspective.
"I'm talking five or six years ago now so it's kind of hard to remember but I'd imagine I was fairly nervous walking in. It was '12 and '13 I was helping out with the water and hurleys and was the young fella going training and watching them the whole time. It was definitely nerve-wracking enough then going in at 18-years-old after my Leaving Cert because it was all the same fellas."
Cork hurler, Shane Kingston, pictured as Cork GAA sponsor, Sports Direct unveiled its ‘Born To Play’ campaign for the Championship. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
It was his father, during his first term as Cork manager in 2016, who gave the then teenage forward his senior debut in a championship qualifier against Dublin.
"Jeez, it's a long time ago now," says Kingston, trying to remember how his father told him that he was going to be involved with the senior team that season.
"I was just out of minor and my focus then was getting back from breaking my leg. And then I went into Harty and my priority was to just get my Leaving Cert done.
"I was in and out for one or two sessions over Christmas over that time and then when I got the call after my Leaving Cert I was delighted to go in.
"I got very close with Hoggy (Patrick Horgan) from the get-go. I suppose I'm training with him every day really, so I just try to learn as much as I can between his striking, his turning, and all of that stuff. There's definitely more to learn anyway, so hopefully I'll learn in the next few years if he doesn't retire."
Six years on from his debut, the Cork panel has a shiny coat of youth. Eight players from the U21 team which lost the 2018 All-Ireland final have already played senior championship.
"There are a lot of fellas around my age, 23, 24, 25, and then you have a jump up to the older group," says Kingston.
"There’s a nice mix then with a lot of younger fellas coming through so they’re bringing a bit of energy to it and we have a bit of maturity then the elder fellas.
"We’re not that young anymore. So I suppose we have to take a bit of ownership there and try help out the younger lads a bit more, the same as fellas did for us when we were their age."
This weekend, Cork face reigning All-Ireland champions Limerick in the Munster semi-final, knowing scoring goals will be key against a which racks up a mammoth amount of points.
"I suppose like any team that is going to try to contend, they're going to try to get goals or do something different," says Kingston.
"You look at Seamie Callanan the year Tipp won the All-Ireland [in 2019], he got a goal every game, something like that.
"Just something different. Everyone knows that we have quick enough forwards so once you break the lines, instead of popping it over, if the option is on just try to do something different and maybe go for the goal chance [we'll take it]. Thankfully they've come off a few times so far."
Picture credit: Sportsfile
Sports Direct is calling on parents of new-born babies from across the Rebel County to register their baby’s name to be in with the chance of featuring on Cork GAA’s very own walk of fame around Páirc Uí Chaoimh and receive a Cork GAA kit. ‘The Steps To Greatness’ celebrates all new-born babies born in Cork in summer 2021 who – like the greats who have gone before them – are #BornToPlay. The names will be on display outside Páirc Uí Chaoimh ahead of Cork’s Championship openers this season. Parents can register their baby’s name by visiting: https://bit.ly/SportsDirect-BornToPlay