Anthony Nash looking forward to 'huge day out'
By John Harrington
Anthony Nash is no stranger to Croke Park in the Cork hurlers, but he never thought he’d have the pleasure of playing there with his club jersey on his back.
The Cork inter-county goalkeeper will be between the posts for Kanturk when they play Leinster and Kilkenny champions Ballyragget in Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Final.
When he first started hurling for Kanturk they were treading water in the junior grade in Cork, and the prospect of contesting an All-Ireland Final in Croke Park would have been nothing more than fantasy.
“I don't think anyone can ever say about their club that they can think of being here,” said Nash at a media event in Croke Park this week.
“Now maybe the top senior teams in certain counties can dream of it a bit easier.
“But like for Kanturk, when I first started hurling in 2001, we were junior and going senior for us last year was incredible, let alone even reaching Croke Park.
“Just looking down there now and seeing you're going to have a couple of thousand people from Kanturk. It's not just the players the next day.
“We'd 300-400 people in London so this place we'll hopefully have a good shot of Kanturk people here.
“To think there's going to be a Kanturk team on the pitch here on Sunday, it's incredible and it's fully deserved for the whole club.
“We've got here now and we just want one more big performance. It's going to be the hardest game we'll play. But to be here and play here, it's something the lads will be able to tell their kids and grandkids about.
“There's a lot of fellas gone through the club that would have given everything to be here so we first of all realise we're fortunate and second of all we're just hoping we can be on the right side of it on Sunday.”
The Kanturk players have put in a huge effort to make it his far, and Nash believes their day in Croke Park is as much a reward for the people who’ve helped them along the way as much as it is for the team itself.
“I remember when I was U10, the coaches I had back then,” he said. “Like Ned Barrett has a pub in Kanturk, he used to take us to matches. Donncha Kenneally's father Dinny and Maurice Brennan, I could go on and on, there's loads.
“But then everyone that's going to be playing here, their families started them off on it. So that's what it's for on Sunday, it's more for the club, the family members.
“We won't be thinking about that on the pitch, we'll be driving on and trying to play away but the people sitting inside here in the stand, I'd say it'll be an emotional day for a lot of them.
“Even though it's a big town, it's a small selection of players with so many sports in the town but every club has rowed in behind us. It's just a great occasion, for any club at any level. It's a huge day out.”
As well as Nash, Kanturk also boast other players if inter-county pedigree in the shape of Lorcán McLoughlin and Aidan Walsh.
They’ve played some great hurling en route to the All-Ireland Final, particularly in a classic Munster Final against Clare championship Kilmaley that went to extra-time.
But the bookies still rate them as slight underdogs against a well-balanced Ballyragget team that has also shown some really impressive form.
“Any Kilkenny team (is strong),” said Nash. “I honestly don't know much about them. The thing is when you come out of Cork you're into the unknown really.
“All we know is they're going to have 15, 20 players the next day, they're all going to be able to hurl guaranteed. They've played with U21's Kilkenny, Kilkenny minors, and they've got a few lads that have touched the senior grade as well.
“Hopefully the weather will be good, hopefully it'll be a good spectacle but we know it's going to be, we're probably going to have to bring our biggest performance of the last year, year and a bit to even compete and hopefully get us over the line.
“I think the lads are hopefully willing and able to do so."