Step aside Patrick Horgan: Damian Casey is the most prolific hurler (you've never heard of)

The Tyrone forward has played 100 games for his county, scoring in every one. His overall tally sits at 39-894.
Step aside Patrick Horgan: Damian Casey is the most prolific hurler (you've never heard of)

Always locked in: Damian Casey of Tyrone during the Nickey Rackard Cup Final match between Tyrone and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

It wasn’t just Patrick Horgan that was shattering the scoring records last weekend.

While the Cork forward surpassed Joe Canning’s hurling Championship record tally with his four pointed frees against Waterford taking him to 22-505 (571 points in total), another record was being shattered in the Nickey Rackard game between Tyrone and Donegal.

The figures of Damian Casey of Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon and Tyrone are simply breathtaking.

His 1-12 tally in securing a Rackard final place takes him to 400 Championship points in 39 appearances.

But his overall form and record defies logic. Since making his debut at the start of the 2012 season, that was his 100th appearance over league and Championship. He has played in every single game since.

And, he has scored in each and every one of those 100 games. His overall tally sits at 39-894.

While Horgan’s Championship record sits at almost 8.4 points per game, Casey’s is over 10 points a game.

It seems churlish to compare those scoring stats when the two hurlers have spent their careers at almost opposite ends of the spectrum, but Casey’s achievements are nonetheless notable as quite possibly the most prolific hurler ever as he gears up to face Roscommon in the Nickey Rackard final this Saturday.

The obvious question is how he might have liked to see how he would have fared at Liam MacCarthy level?

“Of course you do. There was a couple of years there were there was the idea of a ‘Team Ulster’,” Casey explains.

“But the way it was being talked about, you wouldn’t have been able to play for Tyrone then. And that wouldn’t have sat well on me. I grew up playing for Dungannon and then going on to play with other lads from different clubs in underage county teams. And obviously now I am in the county set-up for the last ten years, so it wouldn’t have sat well with me, for a Team Ulster to take away from Tyrone.

“To answer the question, yes, I would have loved to have played in the Liam MacCarthy. But I grew up wanting to play for Dungannon and Tyrone all my life.” 

He had no idea about his record until Tyrone statistician Eunan Lindsay crunched the figures. Casey actually jokes that Lindsay deserves all the credit for compiling it, rather than the scores themselves, before playing it down in the most GAA fashion possible.

“Don’t get me wrong, it is a nice record to have. But would I cut that in half to win here at the weekend? Of course you would,” he maintains.

“Certainly with being on the frees and that, I would expect the scoring percentages to be up, if they weren’t, I would be disappointed in myself in the sense that you need them to be going over.

“I would judge myself on scores from play and my overall involvement. With frees, they aren’t a ‘given’ really, but I would expect them to be going over.” To that end, his exemplary free-taking has undergone some work since Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane came in prior to last year.

He brought Dr Noel Brick, the Kerry-born lecturer on University of Ulster on Sport and Exercise Psychology, and he has spent time with Casey, building his psychological tools.

“I would always have had a set routine. It might not have been like-for-like, or an exact routine every time. I wasn’t doing it identically,” says Casey.

“Noel has come in from the start of the year and watched a couple of early games, challenge games and so on and has done a bit of work with me.

“So whenever I practise and then whenever I hit the frees during the games, we are just going through that same routine. Near enough like-for-like every time.

“It’s about taking your deep breaths, take a step back from the ball and take a look at the ball, take a look at the posts. A couple of steps forward, another couple of breaths. Things like that.” He continues, “It’s a routine that I would have had myself, but it is about nailing it down and making sure it is the exact same every time. If your concentration is broken, take a step back and go through the routine again. Obviously, it depends on how the game is going and if you are maybe taking a wee bit too long. You have to watch that. Opposition teams are going to be shouting and roaring, opposition fans are going to be on your back. But it is about having that set routine, going through it every time and it’s repetition then.

“It becomes natural, whether it’s the first minute of the game of the 70th minute of the game. It should all be flowing and natural. And hopefully the ball is going over the bar after.” 

It normally does.

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