Being one of the only counties remaining that allow clubs to nominate senior hurling captains, Kilkenny have O’Loughlin Gaels man Mark Bergin in the role this year. Now that he’s back on the senior panel, he’s veyr much looking forward to the task ahead.
“It’s a huge honour”, said Bergin at Monday’s National Hurling League launch in Nowlan Park.
“It’s a privilege. That’s just the way it works with O’Loughlin Gaels winning the county championship, I was selected from the club to captain Kilkenny. I just found out a couple of weeks ago so I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
Tradition is tradition in Kilkenny, but some circles had raised eyebrows when Bergin’s name was put forward for captaincy. As has been well documented in the past, being named captain doesn’t in any way guarantee you a place in the match day squad and Bergin’s inter-county CV does come with some gaps.
“Regarding making the panel and that, I was lucky enough to win the All-Ireland with the Kilkenny seniors in 2012.”
“Unfortunately I was let go in 2013, but these things happen and I’ve really enjoyed my hurling since then. I was delighted to get the call back last year but I was under no illusions going in just how big the challenge was going to be.”
“I just worked hard and exactly the same thing is going to have to happen for this year coming.”
But what kind of captain does Bergin see himself as being? Will the hairdryer be coming out or will he leave the talking to his performances on the field?
“To be honest, I’m not much of a talker”, he offers.
“I just go about my business. Being captain, while it’s a great honour off the field, on the field there are so many leaders, in the dressing room, that have been there for ten or twelve years.”
“This is my second year back on the panel so in terms of experience, there’s other lads in the dressing room with the likes of Richie Hogan, the Fennelly’s, Paul Murphy, Joey Holden and these lads, TJ Reid. They’ve been there for so long, they’ve captained Kilkenny, they’re the leaders in the dressing room, I’m rowing in behind them and going to do my best.”
“We lost two absolutely massive leaders for us in Eoin Larkin and Jackie Tyrrell at the start of the year but looking at how they went about their business for the last ten, twelve years, it gives you inspiration and a look at what it takes to cut it at this level. If you’re a fraction short, you’re going to be shown up.”
Kilkenny secured the Walsh Cup once more on Sunday with a two point victory over Galway in Nowlan Park (listen back here). Richie Hogan lead the scoring and also the players on the field in the absence of Bergin, who’s still recovering from injury.
“I got a knock on the ankle that requires surgery. It’s only a small procedure but a ligament was damaged. I’m off the crutches and out of the boot and back training.”
“The first two rounds (of the league) have probably come a bit too early but I’m hoping to be back for the beginning of March.”
Mark Bergin was in conversation with KCLR’s Kevin Regan at Kilkenny GAA HQ on Monday morning. The Cats welcome Waterford to Nowlan Park this Sunday for the start of the league campaign and we’ll have full commentary on air and online this Sunday from 2pm.