Cummins targets record eighth Poc Fada title
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
On Saturday next Brendan Cummins chases a record-breaking eighth M.Donnelly GAA All-Ireland Poc Fada title.
He won his first championship back in 2004 and has enjoyed almost complete supremacy in the interim.
No-one should be too surprised. Cummins is a huge advocate of the event and has only missed one year since he claimed that maiden title.
Although now retired from top flight fare there is little chance that he will be vulnerable in the mountains on Saturday as he is the same weight and body shape since he retired.
“It’s a competitive event,” he said. “And I’ll be there to win. I’ve kept myself in good enough nick and I’m looking for that title. Just being up in the mountain, walking around the course over 5km, it will be raw enough and that suits me. I want to win again.”
He feels his club form, which has been simply compelling, will definitely help him. In his last three games for Ballybacon-Grange he has scored 0-19, 1-14 and 0-10 from centre forward.
“I’ve got a right freedom from it and there’s no real pressure on me – certainly not in the sense of having to play in goals anyway,” he says. “Taking the frees hopefully helps the team too because I have a long strike and I’m really enjoying it. It was important for me to stay competitive even though I had moved on from Tipp.”
So the bad news for his Poc Fada rivals is that Cummins appears even hungrier than ever to add to his CV, which by the way, is such a highly decorated one. Let us not forget that the former Tipp ‘keeper amassed 73 SHC appearances and 16 SFC appearances with his county. He won two All-Ireland SHC medals five All Stars, five Munster SHC medals, four Allianz League medals, three Interprovincial winners medals as well as those seven All-Ireland Poc Fada titles
Even though this season has marked the first time in 20 years that a hurling season will kick into life without the legendary goalkeeper involved he still, as he alluded to, watches his diet and there is a seven-mile run up ‘the Vee’ in the Galtymore Mountains that he likes to tackle from time to time. No doubt he has been practicing lengthening his pucks there in recent months. Plus he can still be heard pinging balls against the wall in the alley in Ballybacon as he keeps the eye in — and the reflexes sharp.
“All players have to re-adjust when they retire,” he says. “Even for the Cork-Tipp semi-final the team that loses won’t know what has hit them for a few days afterwards. I can’t wait for that one. I know the boys will go all out for this over the next three weeks but Cork are Munster champions and I would say they are 40 per cent a better team than they were in the Allianz League. It’s a huge challenge for our boys but hopefully they will meet it.”
Cummins has made the move into the RTÉ studios and into column writing with GAA.ie now and made the transformation with ease.
But next Saturday, deep in the Cooley Mountains, he will be back where he really belongs. A ball, a sliotar and a target. Leaving family aside, if you asked him for his perfect scenario he probably wouldn’t look for much else.
Meanwhile, Cummins isn’t too surprised to see Tipperary back in an All-Ireland semi-final but he says they face their toughest task of the season when they face Cork on August 17.
Not too many gave Tipp a hope of bouncing back after being beaten by Limerick in the Munster championship, but Cummins held fire ’til he saw the qualifier draw. And after that he felt they could be as good as anyone.
“If you gave the lads a draw of their choice they probably wouldn’t have handpicked a better one,” Cummins said. “Galway fell away in the end of their first-round qualifier and after that Tipp then had Offaly followed by a game at home against Dublin; it was a nice way to ease the team back into it.
“The Limerick defeat had them fighting for their lives, but they are off the life support machine now and back in the last four. They would have taken that at the start of the year. It doesn’t matter what road they travelled to get there.”
Now that he is retired, Cummins has only just started bringing his six year-old son Paul to Tipperary matches and says that his busy family commitments mean he has no regrets about calling time on his career.
“I had done my time,” he said. “It was time to move on. I think we can make an All-Ireland final but up in Croke Park it’s all about legs and speed and Cork have that in abundance. They also have an unreal bench to call upon. We’ll have to look at all those things.
“Everyone is saying that it will be a shoot-out but I’m not so sure. I think Cork might have a sweeper in place and Tipp will certainly be working flat-out in training over the next three weeks to find a system of dealing with the Cork attack. The battle of the respective forwards is going to be just fascinating.
“Cork are on fire – Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan, especially, will love Croke Park and Tipp can’t afford to give away frees because Hoggy (Pat Horgan) will punish them all day long. On our side of things we have a number of free spirits in our forwards and they will take watching. I noticed against Dublin when Lar Corbett got the ball he sucked in three defenders and created a goal for us. So that will be intriguing.”
Interview: Damian Lawlor