Cathal Mullane's journey from the Munster Championship to Nicky Rackard

When Cathal Mullane moved out of Limerick he had an idea he’d play on with his club back home, Kileedy. A couple of hours’ drive home for games? No problem.

Cathal Mullane's journey from the Munster Championship to Nicky Rackard

How did he end up hurling for Longford in Division 3B of the Allianz Hurling League, then?

“I got a job in Leixlip with Hewlett Packard in 2013 and my girlfriend Edel is from Edgeworthstown in Longford,” says Mullane, who hurled in the Munster senior championship with Limerick.

“The original plan was that I’d move to Longford temporarily, but Edel got a job in Roscommon, so we put our roots down in Edgeworthstown.”

The two two and a half hour drive back to Kileedy was suddenly looking more problematic. Mullane still plays for them but they give him a bit of leeway when it comes to training. Understandable, given he’s sharpening his touch in intercounty competition.

“The season with Longford is over in June no matter what, and then I can fall back in with Killeedy.

“They take an interest in the club, they’d ask how we’re getting on and that. Sometimes there’s a bit of slagging that I’m ducking training up in Longford.”

How has he found the standard of hurling in the county?

“It’s hard to say, compared to Limerick it’s probably up around the intermediate level. It’s a small county anyway and there are only three hurling clubs. Our junior championship in Limerick has 25 clubs, by comparison.

“The standard’s good, though. There’s one lad on the team, Joe O’Brien, who’d make any panel in any county. He’s exceptional. Some of the lads who retired last year were natural hurlers, lads who kept the game going in Longford for years.

“I think Longford are punching above their weight, certainly. The first round of the Nicky Rackard is against Fingal, who have a population of 250,000 people to pick from. Longford have 40,000 to pick from, and hurling isn’t even the first choice sport, football is.”

The traditional backhanded insult dished out to less successful hurling counties is that ‘they’re great to keep going’, or another variant, ‘they love hurling as much as anyone’. Mullane’s heard it all.

“It’s easy for people to say all that, we certainly don’t get the same media focus— I’d see reports and player ratings and you’d wonder if they’re watching the game at all, they don’t reflect the true value of the game.

“People say all that, ‘well done for keeping it going’ but the lads put in the effort, they train two or three times a week and play on the weekends— they are out at seven in the evening, back at ten. They are doing what everybody else does on county teams. The level of intensity and the speed of play mightn’t be the same in matches but the same time is being put in.”

The experience of moving to a new area and using the GAA as a means of integration is a well-worn path for many, of course. Mullane’s glad he got to know Longford better by wearing the county jersey.

“I hadn’t intended playing hurling in Longford but I moved up in August (2013) but in November Frank Brown, who was then the manager, called me and asked if I was interested.

“I said I was and I gave it a go. They’d been in the Lory Meagher final that year (2013) so I threw my lot in with them. Frank had a very professional set-up and we won the Lory Meagher that year. It’s been brilliant for me, moving to a county where I didn’t know many people, because you get to know lads, and like any team there are great characters there, great crack. It’s been great for me.

“Since last year we’ve lost ten players off the panel— retirement for the most part - and that’s a bit of a struggle. When you lose ten from any panel, particularly a small one, it’s very difficult, but we have new lads coming in.”

Today they take on Fermanagh in the Division 3B final: “They’ve beaten us twice, we’ve beaten them once and there’s been one draw.

“It’s always tight and I’d say this weekend will be the same.”

Allianz HL Div 3B Final: Fermanagh v Longford, Markievicz Park, 2pm.

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