Sunday 25 February 2018

All-Ireland 'has gone down the pecking order'

Larkin's stint in Syria puts pressures of final in shade

Eoin Larkin’s tour of duty in Syria has made him reflect on the importance of hurling.
Eoin Larkin’s tour of duty in Syria has made him reflect on the importance of hurling.

Last week, Israeli jets carried out an air-strike in Syria's Golan Heights, the place where Eoin Larkin was stationed for six months until this April.

"When you go over there and see that kind of stuff, you tend to just regard hurling as a sport at the end of the day," says Larkin, reflecting on his recent tour of duty on the rocky plateau in south-western Syria, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

"You always want to do the best at what you're doing - and that's hurling for me.


"But it certainly has gone down the pecking order when you see things like that over there."

It has, on many fronts then, been quite the year for Larkin.

Last season - naturally, one which finished with an All-Ireland medal - began with glandular fever, an affliction which knocked Larkin so out of kilter he admits now he "thought about retiring".

Having beaten the illness and snapped out of his retirement illusions, Larkin then broke his thumb on a training weekend at Fota Island during a training game, just two weeks before the All-Ireland final.

"I got the X-ray back to say it was broke, but there was only a crack in it," he recalls now. "(So) I had my mind made up that I wanted to play, I had a chat with Brian that evening and he wanted to know how I felt and I told him I'd be grand."

He barely trained for two weeks but the story went that Larkin actually cut himself out of the cast.

"All false, those rumours," he clarifies.

An eighth All-Ireland medal later, Larkin packed his bags for Golan Heights, a major change in atmosphere from his previous tour to Kosovo in 2007 when, he recalls, "the war had finished. They were just rebuilding their lives".

"Definitely, I was nervous going over. I was nervous for a couple of months before I went," Larkin admits.

"My family were nervous as well, obviously, so that made it that little bit worse.

"Those people over there, they have nothing. They can't come out of their houses.

"There were very (few) children around, even the streets and things like that.

"They were all still in their houses but they are going through turmoil."

Running and striking a ball against a wall was as much training Larkin did in the Middle East, though by the time he got back, he reckons his "touch was good,".

Inevitably though, "championship pace caught me and I found it hard to get back up to that pace".

Ergo, he lost the spot he was granted for the summer opener against Dublin for the Leinster final, though strong performances against Waterford reversed that trend.

"I knew when I came back I had to work hard, gather a bit of form - it didn't happen straight away."

"But things have moved on and we are getting there, slowly but surely."

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