SP4Pic2Sixteen Championship seasons. Thirty-four goals. One hundred and ninety-five points. Five All-Ireland senior hurling titles. Nine All-Stars. Universal acclaim from those who know their hurling.
DJ Carey is, as his autobiography co-author Martin Breheny states, a bona fide candidate for the mantle ‘greatest hurler of all time’.
To have seen the Gowran man in full-flight is a pleasure and privilege hurling fans the country over will relay to wide-eyed grandchildren in the years which hopefully lie ahead for us all.
But, as his recently published autobiography underlines, DJ’s humility and vulnerability serve to demonstrate what a magnificent player he was. At his peak, there’s been no-one better I’ve ever seen with a strip of ash.
Now aged 43, and still togging out for Young Irelands at junior level, DJ, in the company of Breheny, has produced an autobiography he can be proud of and, as sales figures already suggest, a story the country wants to read about.
But, as he told The Munster Express, it’s a story which the man himself divulged with a certain level of reluctance.
“I’m not a reader,” he admitted. “And I’d been, as you said, pretty reluctant about something like this prior to sitting down with Martin and putting something into book form because it’s for life and I’ve my family to consider; my youngest is a 14-year-old.
“At least when it’s something like a newspaper article, that comes and goes but when it comes to a book, it’s pretty much there forever, yet I’m happy now that the book is out and is in the format that it’s in.”
The book doesn’t intend to satiate the curiosities of those keen to know the ins and outs of DJ Carey’s personal life – nor should it, given how he and those close to him have had to contend with some intrusive journalistic practices in the past.
But it doesn’t shy away from dealing with many of the appalling rumours which have circulated, through no fault of his own, regarding DJ in the past, including his falling into ill-health last year. And that’s where this autobiography is at its rawest and most compelling.
But this wasn’t a case of DJ Carey having to set the record straight as far as he’s concerned. “No, that wasn’t in play here at all. I believe I know myself what I did, what I do and what I will do. Who would I be setting the record straight for? That’s only for people who put these rumours out and that applies to anyone who puts out rumours about anyone for that matter.
“People who say things like that don’t care what hurt their words cause or who they hurt along the way, and the thing is, even if it was a case of setting the record straight, that would never be with those same people in mind anyway.
“But from my point of view I was asked to write a book, and at first I turned it down. Then I was asked again and it was put to me that a lot of people would like to read my story, and I guess the fact that the book is doing so well just goes to show that there’s a lot of interest and I’m delighted with that. I hope people reading the book get a bit of enjoyment and knowledge out of it.”
In a personal reflection in the book’s introductory pages, DJ writes: “Be flexible. Allow life to run its course with the ups and downs and then it will be easier to find your inner space and place of peace. We need to live and enjoy each day. Celebrate your efforts and not just the outcomes. And always remember, light trumps darkness every time.”
I read those words more than once both before and after interviewing DJ, cognisant, as much as I can be, of the highs and lows of his life, particularly in sport and business. So has he found that inner space, that place of peace he wrote of?
“At the end of the day, you take a perspective of things and you look at it. When I was hurling, I’d go through you to get a ball, get a goal, get a point, whatever it took.
“But then you take a lot of things for granted until such time as you got ill such as I did – and then a lot of people who’d have been around you during the good times, the times when it’s easy to be around someone, all of a sudden they weren’t as visible when times got a little more difficult – now in a lot of cases, several peoples’ own lives became difficult.
“But when those things happened as they did in my case, it all boiled down to one thing: the only person that I could and can control in my own life is me.
“I can’t worry about what other people are saying. I can’t change how other people view me; I can’t do that for anyone else. I can only do that for myself and I hope that sense of belief and optimism comes across in the book.
“I’ve always said that I don’t believe I suffer from depression but I also believe that there is a very fine line for people who are under a lot of pressure in that regard. I firmly believe you have to be peaceful with yourself before you can be that way with anyone else and then, from there, you can get on with things.”
It seems silly to ask a five-time All-Ireland winner and nine-time All Star winner about inter-county regrets, but nonetheless the following had to be asked: did DJ regret that Kilkenny were, as he put it, in something of a “hurling recession” when he was at his playing peak?
“Kilkenny won All-Irelands in ’82 and ’83, they were in an All-Ireland in ’87 and I came onto the senior panel in ’88 when you still had the nucleus of the 82/83 team playing but by the early 90s, most of them were gone and that left us in a transition period.
“We went through four managers in the space of seven or eight years too, so that certainly didn’t help either.”
He added: “Brian [Cody] coming in changed all that, and it’s a testament that he’s still manager after all this time. But stability is massively important, as Brian’s time in charge of Kilkenny had proven – but unfortunately for me, just as Kilkenny were really breaking into their stride under his management, I was pushing on a bit in hurling terms.”
The day he knew he’d “lost a yard”, the yard that makes all the difference at inter-county level, was that a difficult realisation to make on DJ Carey’s behalf?
“Not so much. The thing is the bit of experience can compensate a little in that respect; you learn to tailor your game and adapt to things as you get older anyway.
“For me, it’s all about the head. It’s about wanting to do it. And if the will is there and if you want to do it, then you’ll do it. But I didn’t have that will the way I needed to have it if I was going to remain involved.
You can read the full interview in last weeks munster express