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Larkin has been given a big dose of perspective from dangerous day job

By Declan Bogue

Published 03/09/2016

Case for the Defence: Kilkenny ace Eoin Larkin is part of the Irish Defence Forces, operating as part of UN peace-keeping missions
Case for the Defence: Kilkenny ace Eoin Larkin is part of the Irish Defence Forces, operating as part of UN peace-keeping missions

There may be close to 84,000 people at Croke Park when Kilkenny stalwart Eoin Larkin takes on Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final tomorrow, but his day job with the Irish Defence Forces equips him with a keen sense of perspective.

Last October, the James Stephens man left for a six-month tour of duty in the Golan Heights, where Irish troops operate as part of the UN peace-keeping mission.

A previous tour of duty was spent in Kosovo in 2007, but it bore no comparison to the sheer terror that the residents of that war-torn part of the world live with daily.

"When you go over there and see that kind of stuff you tend to just regard hurling as a sport," reflected the wing-forward ahead of their final meeting with old adversaries Tipperary.

"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."

The nerves he experiences in his sporting life simply do not compare to the heightened sense of danger while in his working life.

"I was nervous going over," the 32-year-old said. "I was nervous for a couple of months before I went. My family were nervous as well, obviously, so that made it that little bit worse but when you get over there you get into a routine and those things settle down and you just get on with your job."

As for the area, he recalled: "It is in ruins. If you go into any housing estate here, look at all the children playing, yet when you go over there, it's a completely different kettle of fish. We were patrolling that border (Lebanon and Israel)."

While there were a couple of explosions within a five-mile radius, Larkin stayed in shape by running around the compound, confined to barracks, but avoiding the gym.

A simile with war and what they face against Tipperary is both crass and yet unavoidable given the recent history between the two. But Larkin credits manager Brian Cody with getting the Cats to the right pitch of battle every time.

"When you go training in January, last year is forgotten and we're focusing on training in the present and moving forward and hopefully onto the All-Ireland and that's just the way we look at it," he said.

"There's nothing that can be done in terms of the past; we've lost games in the past and we still can't do anything about it. We just have to focus on now and the future."

This is the fifth time these neighbours have met in the final since 2009 and the rivalry is appreciated by Larkin.

"There's a good tradition there between the two counties and we have had great games over the last couple of years and you always know what you're going to get with them," he added.

"It's going to be a huge battle and there's only been a puck of a ball over the last couple of years and I'm sure it will be no different in the All-Ireland final. I'm really looking forward to it.

"Nerves are starting to set in and the excitement is there and I know all the lads are looking forward to it and I'm sure the Tipp lads are as well."

Belfast Telegraph

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