Happy as Larry
As Tipperary prepare to head down to Nowlan Park for the first time since he announced his retirement, Premier ace Lar Corbett talks exclusively to Damian Lawlor for GAA.ie about why it’s time to step away and he is happy with his lot.
Lar Corbett sits back in the familiar confines of the Anner Hotel in Thurles and reflects on the enduring inter-county hurling career he has just brought to an end.
His time was colourful to say the least - he was brought from nowhere to end up as Tipp's leading championship goal scorer of all time bagging 29 of them. Six Munster medals and two All-Irelands followed. He made good friends, enjoyed some lovely memories, put up with some lesser ones and dealt with the disappointment of losing three All-Ireland finals.
Corbett remains an exceptionally gifted and instinctive hurler, a type of mercurial talent that shines like a beacon in today's game of systems and set-ups. He could pick a sliotar off the ground at speed like he was just spreading hayseed. He could pull the trigger from 80 yards out and the ball wouldn't ever deviate from its end target over the black spot. And he could rasp a goal home from the unlikeliest of angles.
"I'm content to leave it now and I don't miss it as of yet but it's still early in the year," Corbett smiled, sipping from the pot of tea in front of him.
"After the Galway game last August we left Dublin, went home to lick our wounds, took some time and then got going with the club again. Luckily, we won a county title with 'Sars and that helped change the focus.
"But thinking back about my time with Tipp (1999-2015) it's amazing really. You spend most of your early life with your teamates and you're in that bubble. And then when lads retire you might not see them again for years.
"You think at the time it's one big family but it's not. It's a bubble and the truth is that a lot of players you played with you just don't see again for some time. That's the power of the GAA in so many ways. Five nights a week together training, away at the weekends for matches, in the gym, on training camps to Portugal and the like.
"It just shows how strong the GAA is. Hurling brings you together with a common purpose and takes you all over the country and the world. And then in one puff of smoke everything you knew is dismantled. That's why you must remain level-headed throughout your career."
After his famous hat-trick in the 2010 All-Ireland final there was every reason for Corbett to lose the run of himself. Sponsors, media, corporates big guns...they were all looking to put his face on a brand. He could have walked on water around Tipperary for the next decade. But apart from identifying local business opportunities Corbett remained the same friendly, intriguing and inquisitive lad he has always been.
He added: "The thing is, some of the goals were put on a plate for me by Noel McGrath and Bonner Maher. You can't forget that. And I never did. I went back home to Mam after that All-Ireland final and we sat down and had dinner and chatted away like we always do. So when I saw that nothing much had changed at home, I decided nothing would change anywhere else. Same thing in 2011 and 2012 when the gloss wore off and we attracted heavy criticism. I never let it get me too down, like I never got too high."
A qualified electrician for the previous 10 years, Lar opted to open a bar on the wave of that 2010 All-Ireland win. A recession started brewing soon after and licensed premises all over Ireland were forced to shut their doors. But not Lar Corbett's Bar. Like he weaved through defences on the field, finding space and opportunity with his movement, he took to the business world with fine success.
"We had to think of ways to get the customers to come into us," he says. "Money was and is scarce. At home entertainment is never as varied and accessible. Everyone in the bar, the staff, constantly came up with ideas. Social media was huge. The mainstream media were brilliant to us too when we opened up. We got some great coverage and it set us up. We've kept it going since then."
There are future business opportunities to consider and he will do that in his own time. The past few years have been busy in the Corbett household with the arrival of Lar and Elaine's two children, Faye and Quinn.
In such instances, hurling was always going to have to take a back seat at some stage.
"Well, I'm looking forward to getting going with the 'Sars again," he says. "It will be the first time since 1999 that I will be able to go with them for the full season. I love togging out beside the next generation coming up, the 18 and 19 year-olds. They don't have a care in the world. They couldn't even tell you what they are doing next week. Anyone my age, well we all have the same problems and when we socialise together we just swap them. These lads would keep you young and fresh. They hop off everything."
When he looks back on his career he acknowledges the undoubted highlights but there is no misplaced, misty-eyed nostalgia either.
I went back home to Mam after that All-Ireland final and we sat down and had dinner and chatted away like we always do. So when I saw that nothing much had changed at home, I decided nothing would change anywhere else.
"The six Munsters were great but for all we went through I would not be happy with just two All-Irelands," he admits.
"We missed out on a few. Look, the scoreboard says otherwise but looking back I wouldn't be happy with two and neither would any Tipp supporter of the last 15 years so we are all the same.
"Even one more for all the talent we had and how close we came. I suppose we had a change of manager every two to three years and it didn't help. The players would have to look at it too and so would I. I was under performing for a few years myself so we all take a share.
"But there were great times too. And you have to keep that in mind. We met great people and that young team that came through - with the three Mahers - well we were lucky to meet them. They came in with medals and puffed chests. We hung on their coat-tails and got going again. I was lucky to play a part in the journey. " loved being on the field; it was the only place I could really express myself."