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16th Jan 2024

“He just loves the game.” – Bergin hails ‘attitude and work-rate’ that inspired Deegan’s rise

Niall McIntyre

Mark Bergin has said that, for whichever of the O’Loughlin Gaels players captains Kilkenny in 2024, the role will bring no extra pressure.

Having won the Kilkenny SHC with his club in 2016, Bergin captained Kilkenny the following season.

As county champions once again, the O’Loughlin Gaels club will put forward one of their county players as Kilkenny captain for the forthcoming year, with the likes of Paddy Deegan, Huw Lawlor and Mikey Butler likely the prime candidates.

As has been the case in the past, for Michael Fennelly in 2009 and Lester Ryan in 2015, Bergin was a sub on the team as captain and he explained on Tuesday, ahead of the AIB All-Ireland club final, how that worked out.

“If you’re captain and you’re a sub, you’re still pushing lads as well,” says Bergin.

“You’re still going training and putting in a huge effort. Certainly in my time, Brian never added a pressure to it, it was quite the opposite.”

“Brian always stressed that, that you don’t change how you prepare for games or training sessions.

“There’s no real added pressure to it, and I think the lads are mature enough as well,” added Bergin.

“It’s obviously a huge honour for whichever of the boys, their families as well, but it doesn’t take away from what they’ve got to do.

“There are probably meetings taking place now in the club,” he added, “deciding on a player that’s in the Kilkenny panel already. In terms of advice, all I’d be saying to them is that they’ve to continue playing their own game.”

Paddy Deegan is one of the club’s potential nominees for the role and, having starred for the Gaels throughout their run to Sunday’s final, Bergin hailed the centre back for his dedication and commitment.

The 34-year-old says that Deegan’s desire and love for the game have helped him become the star that he is, more so than natural talent.

“The one thing about Paddy when he was growing up, he just loved hurling.

“He wasn’t necessarily the best player on the club team underage but he just loved hurling.

“He was the water boy in 2011 when we reached the senior final. He would have been a huge part of it, everyone got on well with him.

“Paddy is a super character and I think when he got to around minor, he developed himself physically.

“The club means an awful lot to him.

“Growing up, you wouldn’t have said he’d have been the star that he is at the moment, but you would have said he had the right attitude, a huge work-rate and dedication.

“He’s non-stop working, going to the gym, always has a hurl in his hand. It’s great to see him getting these rewards with the club. He’s lost three All-Irelands with Kilkenny at this stage, so great to see this.

“He just loves the game.”

Meanwhile, with Tullogher Rosbercon and Thomastown having won the respective junior and intermediate All-Irelands at the weekend, Bergin says the town club will be bidding to emulate their achievements.

He referenced Maurice Walsh’s photo of the Tullogher players clapping Thomastown onto the pitch as an example of the togetherness that’s in the county.

“The Dicksboro camogie team inspire us as well.

“Watching the games on Saturday, you do allow yourself to dream.

“It was fantastic to see Tullogher and Thomastown win as well. To see that picture, that’s what it means. And I know there are other Kilkenny clubs who will be shouting for us as well. That’s what it’s all about.

“You’re representing Kilkenny, in Croke Park, on All-Ireland final day, and it was fantastic to see clubs egging on each other.”

16 January 2024; AIB ambassadors, from left, Brian Stack of St Brigid’s, Conor Glass of Glen, Fintan Burke of St Thomas’ and Mark Bergin of O’Loughlin Gaels, pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Senior Club Championship Football All-Ireland Final, between Watty Graham’s Glen and St Brigid’s. This season, AIB will honour #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games – those who persevere no matter what, giving their all for their club and community. AIB is in its 33rd year supporting the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championships. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile


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