Joe Deane retirement

May 28, 2009

Deane: I just
felt the time
was right to walk away

SIGNS and omens. When Joe Deane was rooting through his garden shed last week he found his old calling card: the battered yellow helmet that identified him from a thousand yards on the big championship days.

If you like symbolism, the helmet was strung with cobwebs, a perfect echo of the Killeagh man’s decision to retire from inter-county hurling.

“I had my reservations at the start of last year, I was struggling for a bit of form and so on but I spoke to (then Cork manager) Gerald (McCarthy) and decided to give it a lash for the year.

“As the year turned out we had a couple of good performances but by the time of the Kilkenny game I had my mind more or less made up.

“I just felt the time was right. There was no reason in particular, the time was just right.”

For good performances read last year’s racing finish over Galway, when Deane rolled back the years with four points: “We looked dead and buried, Donal Óg had been sent off, we were facing the breeze with 14 men . . . the buzz afterwards was incredible. An All-Ireland title wasn’t at stake, but it was still one of the good days.”

The first All-Ireland, back in 1999, was also memorable, given the Killeagh connection.

“That was probably the high point. Mark (Landers) was captain and Bernard Rochford was also on the panel, so when we went back to
Killeagh afterwards it was fantastic. Definitely that was the highlight.”

True to form, Deane omits to
mention his game-winning free 10 years ago in that All-Ireland final. In the decade since he’s seen changes in hurling.

“When I started with Cork you went out and you hurled and then you went home, essentially. You got the ball and moved it as quickly as possible.

“As time went on, and with Donal O’Grady, things became more tactical, there was more video analysis. We’d have spoken more about how we’d have played compared to before, but that was true of all counties, not just us: you concentrated on your own game and that was about it.”

They had to concentrate on other issues from time to time. Deane was a central figure in the three Cork player strikes of the last few years, which he describes as draining.

“I don’t think the general public would be aware what goes into it. We’d be very organised, which would probably come across in the media, but that doesn’t come without putting the time in, meeting until maybe one or two in the morning.

“The strike that’s just gone seemed to drag on forever. In 2002 it was done and dusted before Christmas, and the fact that the last one dragged on so long, it drains you. It would certainly have taken a lot out of the lads.”

He’s cognisant of how those stand-offs have coloured people’s view of the players. “You’d be aware of it, you’d get that sense, but that’s the way it is. The fellas involved in those teams stood up for what they believed in and did that not only to better the current set-up in Cork, but also for future generations of players.

“In time those people may look back on it and think it was the right thing to do. Looking at it now, I still think it was the right thing to do.
Everything that happened, happened for a reason and we asked ourselves: was it the right thing to do, could we stand over it?

“On each occasion we felt we could stand over it. The way we’re viewed
. . . that’s up to other people. You’ll always have supporters and knockers. That’s life.”

Now life has a different set of priorities, which don’t include inter-county hurling. Is retirement a relief?

“There’s a certain amount of pressure taken off your shoulders. Any
inter-county player will tell you that the first thing to mind on a Monday morning is: what am I doing this week and how will it improve me as a player? Obviously I’ll be putting in as much of an effort into Killeagh as I can, but inter-county players are
public property.

“I wouldn’t have enjoyed the
limelight side of things, but I never minded people coming up to chat or anything. I always found that a
compliment and I wouldn’t refuse an autograph or anything, there’s so many genuine people out there.

“I’d like to thank all the Cork supporters. I always had a good rapport with them.”

Deane is a Killeagh minor selector and is looking forward to giving something back to the club, even if management isn’t on the horizon at present (“No, coaching would be more interesting to me than managing because you’re involved in training rather than having to organise things on a wide scale”).

Then there’s May 31st. For the first time since 1996 he’ll be a Munster SHC spectator rather than a participant. “I’ll drive up with the lads from Killeagh, I’ll fit back into the normal way of going to matches. If it’s half as much craic as I’ve imagined it to be it should be good, even though it won’t match being out on the field. Nothing matches that, the buzz of going out on the field. Of getting a score. Of winning a match.”

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