John Fogarty: Dual players thriving in split season

The proliferation of dual clubs advancing in their respective championships is clearly evident and, in many cases, owes to the split season
John Fogarty: Dual players thriving in split season

DUAL STAR: St. Finbarr's Brian Hayes is one of several dual players going for Cork county titles in both hurling and football. Pic: Eddie O'Hare

By the sounds of it, Ger Cunningham and Paul O’Keeffe will be rounding up their St Finbarr’s men à la Tommy Shelby before his wedding reception. Only, their message won’t be “no fighting” but “no double talk”. 

Seeing as they are first up on Sunday week and haven’t lifted the Seán Óg Murphy Cup in nearly 30 years, avoiding such chatter will be paramount to Cunningham and his hurlers, four of which started for the footballers on Sunday, the three Cahalane brothers lining out for Castlehaven. 

Don’t be surprised if the likes of Jamie Burns, Billy Hennessy, Brian Hayes, and Ethan Twomey aren’t in the media these next couple of weeks and certainly not starlet Ben O’Connor. 

That they all came through that semi-final unscathed would have been the hurling manager’s priority but almost as important was O’Keeffe striking the right tone ahead of what could be as special a month as October 1982 was for the Barrs (the other double in 1980 was achieved across September and October). 

“We are not really focusing on a double, we are focusing on the job we have to do in a month’s time,” O’Keeffe insisted. Not to jump ahead too much but the relatively small crossover between the teams was evident in the two previous doubles: five men started the two winning finals in 1980 (Donal O’Grady, the late Christy Ryan, John Allen, John Cremin, and of course Jimmy Barry-Murphy) and five in ‘82 (Ryan, Allen, Cremin, JBM, and John Meyler). 

Completing the Tipperary senior double last year, 11 men began both the football final and hurling decider replay for Loughmore-Castleiney — they would have had 13 but for injuries to John Meagher and Brian McGrath in the football final win over Clonmel Commercials. A week after bowing out of the hurling championship, Loughmore were knocked out of the football competition this past weekend, ending an incredible championship run which saw them reach the senior final in each code for two years running. 

However, the double dream remains alive for their victors Upperchurch-Drombane who hope to repeat their football semi-final victory in their hurling clash with Kilruane MacDonaghs this Sunday. 

Next Sunday, Naas look to complete a second successive double in Kildare when they face Clane in the football decider. They, like fellow double chasers Kilmacud Crokes and Na Fianna, wouldn’t have anything like the same number of players traversing two teams as rural clubs such as Carrickmore, Éire Óg, Ennis, Moycullen, Ratoath, Slaughtneil, or even Dunmore East’s Gaultier who are drawing heavily from the successful Ballygunner hurlers. 

Nevertheless, the proliferation of dual clubs advancing in their respective championships is clearly evident and, in many cases, owes to the split season. Look at Wexford where three clubs — Shelmaliers, St Anne’s and Glynn-Barntown — made the quarter-finals of both senior championships, Shelmaliers and St Anne’s winning through to the football semi-finals. 

Or Carlow where Mount Leinster Rangers were able to channel their hurling disappointment into a run to the football semi-finals. In Limerick, Kyle Hayes’ Kildimo-Pallaskenry were alive in both senior championships up to last weekend as were the Collins’ Cratloe in Clare. A year after winning a senior A hurling championship, Kanturk, boasting a massive 14 dual players, retained their premier senior status this season and have a premier intermediate football final to look forward to later this month. 

Whether it’s the alternate week plan as is the case in Clare, Cork, Dublin and Tipperary or the super split version which is in place in Carlow, Waterford and Wexford, the unfettered club period has been heaven sent for the dual club and player. The continuity, the sheer momentum of playing week-in, week-out and the match fitness attained from playing more than others is a potent cocktail. 

As demanding as the schedules must be, the positive game to training ratio must be a major attraction for the dual player. Speaking two years ago, St Finbarrs’ defender Burns spoke of how well the clubs’ management teams were combining to complement one another by minding their shared stock. 

“The tough sessions are done by the footballers when the hurlers are away and vice versa so you’re not really flahed. You’re looked after well.”

He hailed the combination of the change in Cork’s championship structure and the pandemic-enforced split season, believing it to have worked in his and the club’s other dual players’ favour. 

“I would have been unhappy a few years back but with the new system where they kind of lay it out and give you the weekends definitively it helps. The most important thing is you’re given some break because it can be very hard.” 

After running the dual gauntlet these last 10 of 11 weeks, this weekend’s rest is well-earned.

Perhaps, it will provide time to reflect on the possibility of more history being made 40 years on but mum’s the word.

Donegal and Rossies keep their fans waiting

Tick tock. Donegal are now 77 days without a senior football manager, Roscommon being without for 63.

The remaining football county yet to appoint a boss for 2023, Limerick, can be excused as Billy Lee’s departure came at the end of August.

The delays must be infuriating for supporters although there is optimism that things will become clearer when senior county championships conclude, Donegal’s final taking place this Sunday.

The theory is that as leading candidates still have skin in the game in these competitions they are being left alone to carry on with their club duties and not distracted by being proposed and ratified.

In Donegal’s case, it’s Rory Kavanagh who is looking to guide St Eunan’s to back-to-back titles.

This past weekend, he batted the subject to the boundary when he was asked about succeeding Declan Bonner: “I’m just concentrating on St Eunan’s now until our season is finished. We have a big job ahead of us now next week so that’s where my full focus lies. I’m going to put the full focus here now.”

Don Connellan was the latest name linked to succeeding Anthony Cunningham in Roscommon and he will hope his interests with 2020 Galway SF champions Moycullen don’t conclude until the end of the month at the very least.

If Donegal and Roscommon are being patient for such reasons, it makes a change in how counties do their business.

In 2010, James Horan was appointed as Mayo manager having just guided his club Ballintubber to their first senior county final, which they won before losing to Killererin in a Connacht semi-final.

Cunningham brought Garrycastle to an All-Ireland final replay in late March 2012 having accepted the Galway senior hurling manager’s position the previous October.

Two Division 1 counties playing second fiddle to a couple of clubs or happy to wait for the right candidate?

It’s a debate.

The softer side of Mullins

Members of the Fourth Estate were often regarded by him as opponents but the late Brian Mullins could inspire great tenderness and affection as was beautifully articulated by his son Nathan on social media over the weekend.

“Dad, from a young age you always assured me there’s no superheroes on a football pitch,” he posted.

“Everyone has two arms, two legs and a head on their shoulders. What matters is who wants the win and who is willing to work harder. I’ve carried that with me in all aspects of my life but to me you were my superhero. Thank you for everything. I’m so proud of you and love you so much.”

Mullins was an out-and-out winner but he wasn’t all granite. In St Vincent’s’ victorious 2017 Dublin SFC final, Nathan probably should have been substituted soon after suffering a blow following a perfectly-timed shoulder by James McCarthy early in the game.

He continued on, though, until additional time in the second half but it was clear how concerned Mullins was about his son’s welfare after the final whistle.

At Kevin Heffernan’s funeral in 2013, Mullins carried on one of his broad shoulders his great mentor’s coffin out of St Vincent de Paul’s church in Marino. With his other hand, he caressed the wood and said his own quiet goodbye to him. Nearly 10 years later, Mullins’ life will be celebrated in the same church tomorrow. It was one very much lived.

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