"I was so nervous going into those first few games" - Holden says the nerves don't go away with age
Right about now, Joey Holden was supposed to be travelling central and south America but instead, as has been the case so many times before, the only destination on his mind is Jones' Road.
Ballyhale Shamrocks take on Ballygunner this Sunday in one of the most eagerly anticipated club games in years and even though things were supposed to be different, as it turns out, it's the same as it ever was.
He's again stationed on the edge of the Ballyhale square. Minding the house like their very own guard dog.
Seeing as his late father Patrick was one of the biggest influences in his hurling career, it does seem as if fate has brought him back. Patrick, a former player and chairman in the Shamrocks club, always wanted Joey and his three brothers to hurl so even when he was on the other side of the world, that was on Joey's mind.
He returned then to help Ballyhale win the five-in-a-row in Kilkenny but even though Patrick wasn't there to see that day, he passed away in the mean-time, what was more important for Joey was that he was back in time to say his last goodbyes.
"Daddy always wanted us all to hurl so much
"I was away in America for the summer, and ultimately, the plan was to keep going through central and south America but first of all the hurling was one thing that brought me back.
"It was egging away at me to try and get back to do the five in a row and then we had dad's passing in between that so, I'm very grateful that we were back at that stage because we wouldn't have got to say our final goodbyes otherwise.
"It's been a rollercoaster of a year in that sense but we are still hurling away so we can't complain."
It must have been a strange one too, for Holden and his club-mate Colin Fennelly as they watched the county's All-Ireland final defeat to Limerick in a bar in San Francisco. This was Holden's first year out of the inter-county game but watching on from California, he had no regrets, only high hopes for the Cats.
"I was in San Francisco at the time with Colin watching it in a bar over there. It was about half eight in the morning but there was plenty of banter around there. There was all sorts of jerseys watching it and plenty of Kilkenny lads as well.
"I had my Kilkenny jersey on. They had a fair idea (we used to play with Kilkenny) We were both there watching it. When we got that goal near the end we leapt up. I thought we could nab this but Limerick just got the scores to get them over the line."
He plans to resume the travelling as soon as this club campaign ends but the hope is that could take a while yet.
Because Ballyhale, as usual, are back at the big dance. What's unusual is that, after last year's loss to Ballygunner in the All-Ireland final, they Kilkenny team are the underdogs this time around.
"It took a little bit (to get over that 2021 club final loss,) says Holden, who's as level-headed as they come.
"I've had lots of heartbreaking defeats over the years. That is just another one - unfortunately - to add to the list. You can't dwell on these things too long. If you are dwelling on every time you lose in hurling you will be dwelling for an awful long time. The same if you dwell on wins, you will be dwelling for a long time. You just have to ultimately get up and get on with it.
"We've had life and death situations in our club which is far more relevant. When you see them sort of things it puts it more into perspective that ultimately we'd have loved to win it, we will have ifs and buts about that game for a long, long time, but you just have to get up, get on with it, and look forward to the next game."
Holden has previously spoken about how it wasn't talent, but hard-work that made him as a hurler and that's why, having missed much of this year's training, he was extremely nervous when he first came back in.
"I was so nervous for the first couple of games because I knew that the panel in Shamrocks had done so much work so I knew I wouldn't be up to that level. So I suppose I just threw myself into it and done a bit extra on the days we had off, so I could get up to the level and not to disappoint the lads with my performances and that was just what I had in my head.
"So I was just so nervous going into those first few games even though you've played them a lot. You'd be so nervous saying you don't want to let these boys down after they let me back into the panel."
Who's going to win? 👇 pic.twitter.com/epW3suUalz
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) December 14, 2022
"On the day of a match, you're so nervous before the game," he adds.
Do the nerves get better with age?
"Unfortunately, no, I don't know does it get worse because you move into a leadership role. I remember my first experience of nerves was as a young lad driving to a match on my own and I used to keep yawning.
"I was like, 'Why am I yawning?' I'm not tired. And then I tried to go to bed even earlier. I was in bed at nine o'clock before one match, drove to the match and I just kept yawning."
"That's the way the nerves came out in me, just yawning even though I'm not tired. I think you learn to deal with it better. The nerves will still be there and you still have them butterflies in your stomach. But you learn to deal with it better. Y
"You know what it is rather than trying to figure out what it is. Them nerves in a big game, if they're missing there's something wrong more so than they disappear altogether."