He was a well known name that only left the intercounty scene at the end of the 2015 season. He gave 15 seasons of great service to Tipperary. So ahead of this weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final, we pay tribute to one Tipperary’s finest ever forwards, Lar Corbett.
Corbett had a love-hate relationship with hurling followers, both from inside and outside of Tipperary. But few can dispute his quality as a forward. Corbett had class that very few forwards posses in today’s game. He had that flair that lit up the crowd and raised the pace of his teams play, while his finishing was as good as anybody else in the game.
Corbett had a unique ability to get a crowd going. It was not always for the right reasons, but a stadium waited in anticipation any time Corbett gained possession. People expected something to happen. He could throw the ball up on the hurley and use his pace to open up a defence. He could score from anywhere, he could make things happen.
2001 was his opening season when young hurler from Thurles with little underage pedigree or reputation was given an opportunity by Nicky English. Who better to judge the potential in a forward? Corbett had a very good opening season and won an All-Ireland medal for his efforts.
Tipperary went on to struggle for success after this and Corbett struggled along with them. Fortunes began to turn when Liam Sheedy took over as manager and he began to get the best out of Corbett. From 2008 onwards, we began to see the best of Lar Corbett on a regular basis.
His ability to score an array of scores made him stand out above many other attackers. He was a goal poacher as well as a scorer of great goals. He was equally as good at scoring points from all different ranges. But Corbett produced more than scores. His ability to open up defences and create scores was what made him such a class act.
From 2009-2011, he could easily have been classified as the best forward out there from open play. Tipp got to an All-Ireland final with Corbett as their main man. He terrorised Cork in the opening round, before showing his goal scoring touch against Clare, Waterford and Limerick to put Tipp in the decider. He then delivered four points from play in the final as Tipp fell agonisingly short.
2010 got off to a bad start with defeat to Cork but Tipp and Corbett bounced back. He scored 2-3 against Wexford and then got the vital winning point in the quarter-final with Galway. This meant another semi-final where he got 1-2 against Waterford before banging in a hat-trick of goals in the final to lead Tipp up the steps of the Hogan Stand.
A Hurler of the Year accolade followed, but it did not stop here. Corbett was arguably even better in 2011. He scored an incredible 4-4 in the Munster final and scored the goal that pushed them passed Dublin in the semi-final. Surprisingly, he was held scoreless in the All-Ireland final as Kilkenny gained revenge for 2010.
Corbett was pushing on but still remained a story in the latter years of his career. 2012 saw him spring a shock retirement. He returned against Cork in the Munster semi-final where his impact on the crowd was more visible than ever.
2013 then saw Tipp exit the championship after losing two games. Kilkenny beat them in a qualifier in Nowlan Park. Corbett scored a first half goal, but soon left the field due to a hamstring injury. It was speculated that Corbett’s departure put a massive dent in Tipp’s chances that night.
2014 proved to be Lar Corbett’s final season as a starter in a Tipp jersey. He was not the main man as Seamus Callanan and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer took over the scoring responsibility, but Corbett had a big role in that season. Tipp were approaching crisis in Thurles against Galway in the qualifiers. Corbett got the point that put Tipp ahead for the first time having trailed by six points with fifteen minutes to go.
It was such an underrated point and it took a player of class to get it. He saved his best performance for the All-Ireland final where he caused huge trouble for the Kilkenny defence. He hit the crossbar and won a penalty. It was truly classy performance from a classy player.
He retired at the end of the 2015 season at the age of 34. Having watched him running after Tommy Walsh in 2012, it might seem strange to classify him as this, but Corbett was one of the most intelligent forwards of his day in a hurling sense.
Only once in close memory can a goal be remembered when Lar Corbett won a contest and scored, the first goal in the 2010 All-Ireland final. Other then that, he was his intelligent runs and top class support play that put him positions to finish.
Lar Corbett was a great forward. There are very few players like him playing hurling at the moment.