It's just great being back in Cork again

I've been back in Cork the best part of eight months now and I thought it was about time to bring everybody up to speed on how things are going. It's been fantastic. The city has changed a lot. I love what they've done with Patrick Street and, as for the Jack Lynch Tunnel, well, I think my old friend, the real Taoiseach, would be thrilled with that. Everybody keeps asking me what the highlight has been. Sure the whole thing has been one big highlight. The longer I'm here the more annoyed I am that they took so long to bring me back here. In that respect, it was great to be reunited with Billy Morgan during the homecoming back in September. I've known Billy nearly half a century now and I'm delighted to see his hair is as silver as myself these times. Of course, we've had our moments over the years. I thought he'd hold on to me for a bit longer there back in the 1990s. Then there was that, ahem, unmentionable day a couple of years ago in Croker when I was convinced he'd be bringing me home again. At least until the game started.

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But look, that's all water under the bridge. He was happy to see me and I was happy to see him. He's my oldest friend in Cork really and nobody has worked harder over the years to bring me back here. I won't say I was surprised that I ended up in Cork for the year even if there were times last summer I didn't think these footballers wanted me at all. Watching that game against Dublin was a nightmare. The prospect of being dragged around the capital city - where too many of the citizens don't even know who I am or could care less either - chilled me to the very bone.

Now, I wouldn't have minded going up to Down for a spell. Grand fellas up there. We've a good relationship going way back but, of course, Cork has a special place in my heart. I'm named after a Corkman after all and I know that way too much time had passed since my last visit. I know the people feel the same from the way they react to me. You should have been in Bantry the first night they brought me down there during that mad homecoming. The stuff any cup's dreams are made of.

Those are the type of crowds I've grown to expect, delirious hordes roaring at the very sight of me. Getting pawed and touched and groped by every fella and girl that can get within touching distance isn't for everyone but it's part of what I love about this job. The attention is what makes it all worthwhile. I love being appreciated just as much as the next person, and I often spend far too long in dark rooms on my own, especially in certain counties I could mention.

I don't want to name names or be rude but I have to. Down in Kerry I was taken for granted in the past few years. Not even the children were that pleased to see me anymore. Sometimes when they'd bring me into a school I felt like they were only going through the motions. They were only in it for the homework off. Then when they carried me into pubs and function rooms, I didn't even turn heads. Me. Not turning heads with my unforgettable silver gleam and my enormous unmistakable ears. It was depressing. I spent a few nights in my last stay in the so-called Kingdom just thrown in the corner, forgotten about, ignored by everyone. I'm not saying it was an abusive relationship but the romance was definitely gone. It was time for a change for both of us.

It hurts me to even talk about it now. I'd be brought into houses down there and the children wouldn't even want their photo taken with me. "Eyra we did that last year," they'd say in that awful accent. How insulting is that. Thanks be to God, it's all very different up here in Cork. They are thrilled to see me. An rud is annamh is iontach and all that. They go the whole hog too. Family photographs like the little baby sat into the cup for a picture in the hope they can use it again 20 years from now when he's playing for Cork. That kind of thing. The kind of stuff that makes my job worthwhile. All I want is a little bit of recognition and, sure, the adulation is a bonus.

Not to mention then the impact I have in Cork pubs. This is what I live for. You know what it's like to walk into a bar and have everybody turn to look at you. It's a great feeling. Any cup or trophy that tells you otherwise is lying. For the record, I also find the Cork pubs a lot more generous with the drinks than their Kerry counterparts. I don't think I'm empty from the moment I walk in the door in Cork.

Now that the championship is back on and there's a stretch in the evenings I realize I can't be getting too comfortable down here in Cork. I know there are others with designs on me. If I have to go some place else come September, I just hope it's not Dublin. Please, anywhere but there. My bosses will kill me for saying this, and I am supposed to be strictly neutral, but if it's another 16 years before I'm being battered by those unruly fans up there, that'll be too soon. As for Kerry, well, they'll probably be willing to go the extra mile now that I've left them in the lurch. Usual story in a marriage. It was only when I left for the house next door they discovered how much they loved me. Happens a lot in my line of work.

As told to Dave Hannigan.