'Keane' with a 'D'

August 13, 2008

Cork's Joe Deane
The incredible renaissance of Cork's hurlers has been one of the stand-out stories of the 2008 championship season. With an unbelievable display of passion and resilience, the Rebels have stormed through the back door to set up another meeting with archrivals Kilkenny in the forthcoming All-Ireland semi-final. Thirteen seasons after making his senior intercounty debut, talismanic attacker Joe Deane is still going strong in the red shirt of the Rebel County. If ever there was an individual who deserved to be dubbed a Shooting Star, then Killeagh's Joe Deane is that man. Gerald Robinson caught up with the inimitable triple All-Ireland medallist to discuss the long hard road that he and Cork have just travelled. What can we say about Joe Deane that hasn't already been said or written? He's a modern-day GAA legend, who has honoured his club and county with tremendous service since exploding onto the scene in the mid-nineties. 'Deano' first came to our attention as part of the Cork minor team that captured the 1995 All-Ireland MHC; he added consecutive U21 All-Irelands in '97 and '98 and followed up with a magnificent hat-trick of Liam McCarthy Cup triumphs in 1999, 2004 and 2005. He made his intercounty championship debut in 1996 and captained the Rebels in 2007. He's seen two high-profile player strikes on Leeside and has beaten serious illness to continue playing in the very highest echelons of Irish sport. But it's unlikely that JD has witnessed anything quite like the Leesiders' fantastic run in the 2008 SHC. The Rebels were written off in many quarters as a spent force following their first-round defeat to Tipperary and subsequent performance in beating Dublin, but have bounced back with thoroughly sensational wins over Galway and Clare to take their place in the last four. In both those dramatic encounters, Cork were pushed to the pin of their collective collars but they answered emphatically each time to set up a mouth-watering All-Ireland semi-final with defending champions Kilkenny - a team with whom Joe and his colleagues have enjoyed many pulsating battles over the past decade. Would it be fair to say that 2008 has been a strange old year for Cork? Yes, it has been. Going into the championship, we were confident of beating Tipp and things were going okay in training. We played reasonably well but didn't take our chances and Tipp were worthy winners on the day. We then went off to concentrate on club championships and the mood in the camp was one of disappointment. It was hard to see where we were going from there. The performance against Dublin wasn't our best but things then took off against Galway and Clare. How happy are you with where the team is at right now? No win in Munster but an All-Ireland semi-final - would you have settled for this at the start of the year? Absolutely. You always view every year as three separate competitions. There are three trophies to be won and you take them one at a time - the national league, the Munster championship and the All-Ireland. They are completely different competitions now. Once you go out of Munster, you concentrate on the back door and the All-Ireland series. The Munster championship is very special and it has produced some incredible matches over the years - and Cork are fortunate to have been involved in many of those - but the All-Ireland series is the cream of the crop now. People will remember you for what you do in August and September. How difficult has it been to forget the off-the-field distractions that blighted the start of Cork's season? It hasn't been difficult at all. Once the issue was settled, there was no more talk about it in training. But it was definitely something that went on too long and it dragged out a bit in the end. Having said that, there were important issues that had to be resolved and the players felt strongly enough to make a stand and we're glad we did. The players' first priority is to play but, to do that, it's important that everything is as sound as possible off the field. We stuck together and the stand we took has probably benefited both teams. How frustrated were you sitting on the sidelines during the early part of the season, while the Kilkennys, Tipps and Waterfords were getting into their stride? It was very disappointing to sit out those two games against Kilkenny and Waterford at the start of the league. Those would have been played before big crowds and it would have been a good test to see where we were, but you have to look at the bigger picture and it's a long time from February until the start of the championship in May. In a way, it did us no harm to sit out January and February. We were a bit behind in match practise but the lads were always doing a bit themselves and there was no real harm done. Things have changed a lot over the past six or seven years. Players do a lot of training on their own during the winter and most lads keep themselves in great shape. We have witnessed an incredible transformation since the first-round defeat to Tipperary. Where did that come from? Mainly from the fact that there was a lot of criticism in Cork - and outside the county - after the Dublin game. People thought we were finished. They said we had been successful but that all good things come to an end. The common consensus was that we had run our course as a team. Locally, there was a real sense that this Cork team was finished, so it became a pride thing. We went out to prove - to ourselves as much as anyone - that we could still deliver on the big day. Fellas wanted to prove that they could still win a big game and the mood in the camp was excellent leading up to the Galway game. The lads wanted to give it a good lash. If it was to be our final lash, it was going to be a good one. When Donal Og [Cusack] was sent off, it made us more determined. Donal Og has been a great servant to Cork and we knew he'd get the blame if we lost, so we had to make sure that didn't happen. The Clare game was our third weekend in a row and we started sluggishly, but rose to the challenge again with some good hurling in the second half. Are you ready for Kilkenny? I think so. Once the championship season starts, it's all about games and you can't do an awful lot of training. The last two games we've had against Galway and Clare have been better than ten hard training sessions and they've brought us on a lot. Things have come together nicely. With Kilkenny being All-Ireland champions, we will hopefully raise our game against them. We always get great satisfaction from beating them. But they have been fantastic champions and there's great mutual respect between the two teams. What a rivalry! With all those All-Ireland finals in the past decade. It's a tremendous rivalry. From 1999, when a good few of us were involved and we went up to Dublin as underdogs and beat them with a young team, it has been a special occasion when Cork meet Kilkenny. '03 was a big year for us but we missed a few chances and they beat us that day. We beat them again in '04 in another good game but in '06 they beat us. They are always good, tough games, played fairly, and we're looking forward to another huge game in Croke Park in a week or so. What's the best thing about hurling for Cork? And the worst thing? The most enjoyable aspect would be the actual games. There's always a good atmosphere in the county before a game and a great buzz in the crowd when the match starts. It's great to be part of that. All the talk before a big match, and the build-up . it's a great feeling to go out and play. Also, the feeling you get after winning a big match is very special. The worst thing is the lack of a social life. From the time the season starts until it ends, there's very little time to go out and relax. You miss out on a lot of social events and you have to watch what you eat, and it can be difficult. But I'm getting married later this year and we had baby four months ago, so I've a lot to look forward to in my life. You've given great service to Cork hurling. Even though you're still only 30, there are lots of miles on the clock. How much longer do you hope to continue? This is my 13th year with Cork. It's hard to know when you'll stop. You base each year on its own merits. You try to take every season as it comes and you ask yourself are you still enjoying it, are you still good enough to contribute something to the team; you weigh it up and you know what the best course of action is. I've thoroughly enjoyed it up to now and I'm still prepared to put the effort in. It's a huge part of my life and I've made a lot of friends, so it would be difficult to walk away. But I'll look at it again at the end of each season. Joe Deane Fact File: Name: Joe Deane Date of Birth: November 15 1977 Height: 5'7" Weight: 12 stone County: Cork Club: Killeagh Intercounty debut: V Kerry, October 1995 (league) / V Limerick 1996 (championship) Honours: one Munster MHC; one minor All-Ireland; three Munster U21s; two All-Ireland U21s; five Munster SHCs; three All-Ireland SHCs; three All Stars; two Railway Cups; one junior club championship; one intermediate club championship

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