Schedule the primary enemy of the dual star

Limerick hurling coach Paul Kinnerk fears the dual player will become an extinct species at inter-county level unless alterations are made to the fixtures programme.

Schedule the primary enemy of the dual star

Kinnerk worked with the Clare hurlers in 2016 and says it was “unfair” that Podge Collins was twice asked to line out for the county’s hurling and football teams on the same weekend.

Mayo’s Keith Higgins aside, Collins was the sole player to juggle both codes during last summer’s All-Ireland championships. Limerick’s Gearoid Hegarty briefly adopted dual status last spring but opted to throw his lot in with TJ Ryan’s hurling squad following the league’s conclusion.

Collins’ decision to focus solely on hurling in 2017 means there will not be a single player operating in both the All-Ireland hurling and football championships. Kinnerk reckons this trend will continue if the current fixtures schedule is not tweaked.

“I’d be very friendly with Podge and I know he would love to be able to play both,” said Kinnerk, “but last year, you had the situation where Podge played with the footballers on a Saturday evening against Roscommon in a qualifier, then he had to turn around 24 hours later and play in the All-Ireland hurling quarter-final.

“He is more than willing to do it, but it is unfair to ask it of him. If the games were a week apart, it would be absolutely doable. But, at the moment, with the likelihood that fixtures like that are going to take place, it really ties the hands of the player.”

Kinnerk, who is also the director of the Limerick football academy, believes managing the training workload of a dual player is not what is discouraging players from signing up for both codes.

“Last year, it might have been a case that the footballers were in the gym on Monday, the hurlers were on the pitch on Tuesday, the footballers were on the pitch on Wednesday, the hurlers in the gym on Thursday, and so on. It wasn’t a case that Podge was expected to be at all of those.

“He was trying to tog out for both teams [on the one weekend] and I know he was a very stressed guy those weekends.

“This year, some counties are playing national league on the same weekend so players would have to choose.”

The 2016 Clare football coach Mick Bohan doesn’t see there being room for dual players at the highest level.

“What Podge achieved last year was phenomenal,” said Bohan.

“Going down the line, and I would have spoken to him at the end of the season, I don’t think it is possible [to play both codes].

“For a long time, it would have been said that the skillsets of Gaelic football would have been nowhere close to hurling. I would say that has completely changed. Hurlers would have always seen themselves with high skillsets and a high skillset game.

“From my experience as a coach, the skills of Gaelic football have improved beyond recognition. In order for you to do that at the highest level, you have to just solely focus on [football].”

Central to the survival of the dual player, according to National Hurling Development manager Martin Fogarty, is a common-sense approach not often adopted by managers.

“I would love to see it being accommodated. Obviously, fixtures are a major part of it. More important is management and managers of teams not wanting their players on the field every night of the week.

“We have gone crazy in wanting players too often. Too many nights, too many sessions. We’re taking too much of their time. I admire what Slaughtneil are doing and wouldn’t it be unbelievable to see them in Croke Park in both codes? They have common sense. They realise the enemy is outside the fence, not inside it.”

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