Seamus Harnedy: 'It is coming to crunch time now'
By Cian O’Connell
The Championship campaigns have passed quickly, experience accumulated so Seamus Harnedy acknowledges the differences which exist preparing for high stakes summer encounters.
Harnedy, now such an influential figure in the Cork set-up, waited patiently before being afforded a significant opportunity.
When the chance came the St Ita’s clubman was ready to seize his chance, but that is why Harnedy remains keen always to assist emerging talent.
The advice and guidance supplied to him by Cian McCarthy, Tom Kenny, and Niall McCarthy, amongst others, is still stored in his head. Small words of encouragement or pointers assisted him on his journey. Cork wants to maintain Cork’s proud red and white tradition.
“You are probably more used to the routine coming up to a big Championship game,” Harnedy responds when asked what has changed since making his own entrance into the senior inter-county arena. You are probably not as nervous as the younger lads because you have been there before.
“It is such a competitive place you are nearly always on edge yourself, you're just trying to get your best self right and up for the occasion ahead.
“You always have to look after your individual approach and if you can help out some of the younger lads, to ease their nerves you are there to give a helping hand.
“That is how the approach has changed and differed over the past few years compared to when I was a younger member of the squad. You are just trying to get yourself right, to put your best foot forward.
“As you get older you are just trying to help the younger lads integrate into the squad, just get ready for a big game, to do anything to ease the nerves ahead of a big Championship game for them.”
Being accepted and assisted can provide a source of comfort and hope to a young person entering the panel.
“The likes of Cian McCarthy, heroes like that you'd look up to, Tom Kenny was another, lads that were always very professional,” Harnedy recalls.
“They were always there to give you advice you'd never forget. One of my first times in a training panel Niall McCarthy was so helpful to me, a player in a similar position to myself, always looking to the younger lads, asking them to they want anything, giving advice in areas where he could help out.
“That is invaluable. As a senior member or player you have to give lads a bit of a help because it is pretty much going into the unknown in your first few Championship games. It is a tough environment so helping out however you can is probably how it has changed for me over the years.”
Now an established figure in the Cork attack Harnedy continues to enjoy being part of John Meyler’s panel as the red and white outfit prepare for an intriguing All Ireland SHC Quarter-Final against Kilkenny at Croke Park. “Absolutely, they are a great bunch of lads, we all get on very well,” Harnedy remarks.
“Even as a huge cohort of the Under 21s have come in over the last two or three years it has really re-energised and refreshed the squad. That is very encouraging. From a senior player on the panel that is brilliant. It is great to see the young lads coming in putting pressure on you.
“It is great, I enjoy going training every night. We get on good, but it is coming to crunch time now so that will all be put out on the line on Sunday.”
Following last year’s harrowing loss at the penultimate stage against Limerick, Cork boss Meyler stressed the need to bolster the depth of the panel.
Experiments were carried out in the League and Harnedy is adamant that Cork, who cruised to an emphatic success over Westmeath last weekend, have improved in that area.
“Robert O'Flynn put his hand up on Sunday coming on at half-time, he got 1-4, other fellas like Jamie Coughlan did very well when he came on,” Harnedy comments.
“John has said it from the start of the year that we have to strengthen the squad, he has gone about that in a very proactive way.
“He has introduced a lot of lads in the League and it was probably something we needed to look at after last year's campaign. He has done, fair play to him, and hopefully that will make us a stronger unit going forward.
“It was about trying to get over Westmeath to get on to the next phase. We were pretty much going into the unknown, we hadn't played Westmeath in previous years so it can be hard to know. We were just very happy to get out with the result we desired.
“We have a few days now until another epic battle with Kilkenny so it was a case of job done. It was good to see lads coming off the bench, using the squad, it was very good from that point of view.”
Munster glory was secured by Cork in 2017 and 2018, but the subsequent All Ireland Semi-Final defeats to Waterford and Limerick brought pain following the southern pleasure.
Producing at GAA headquarters is Cork’s current brief. “That is our next challenge, Sunday is an opportunity to put our best hand forward,” Harnedy admits.
“It is all about delivering a performance and hopefully the outcome will look after itself. We are under no illusions, Kilkenny had two epic battles with Wexford, they are a battle hardened team.
“A lot of lads on that team have All Ireland medals so everyone knows what they are about. It will be a big battle, but we just have to focus on ourselves to drive it on. We know we have to deliver our best performance if we are going to come out of Croke Park with the desired result.”