The dual in the Haven crown

Hurling with the Barrs.

Football with the Haven. People outside Cork might find Damien Cahalane’s dual commitments hard to fathom, but the man himself offers a simple explanation.

“I’d always played for Castlehaven, there was no question of a transfer down there or anything. I started off down there.

“When it came to hurling, I fell in with the Barrs because we were living in Wilton, but from an early age we’d have been going down to Castletownshend a lot — we’d be down there for the whole summer as kids, weekends and so on.

“My Dad, my uncles, both sides of the family were playing away with Castlehaven, so it was natural to play for them.

“Playing for Castlehaven, that’s what you aspire to. My Dad has three county medals and so on, so you could feel a bit worthless walking around the house without one...

“It’s what you’d dream of, growing up. I wouldn’t say it pushed me but I gravitated towards Castlehaven because of what’s gone before us, the history and so on. Four county titles mightn’t be a lot compared to Nemo or the Barrs but that’s what makes it hugely special to win it.”

The surname is a giveaway. Dad is Niall Cahalane, a man with a fair bit of history in red and white, not to mention blue and white.

“Is that added pressure? At times, it can be a name to live up to, but you want to drive yourself on too — to make your own name as well. Obviously I’m very proud of my Dad and everything he did, everything I’ve learned, I learned from him, or one of my uncles, but you want to be your own man as well.”

Any ‘we’d do 40 laps before training in our time’ talk around the breakfast table?

“Ah, there’s a bit of that, alright, but you have to brush that off. When I started doing weights he’d probably have been sceptical, for instance, but I’ve been doing them for a few years and he can see the benefit of them.”

Cahalane Jr is doing a FETAC coach education course in Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa with a view to going back to UCC to study sports science. Down the line, the PE teaching route appeals (“With six younger brothers and sisters, I’m used to having kids around. And being in charge”).

First things first, though. Tomorrow Castlehaven take on warm favourites Dr Crokes in the Munster Club final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The Cork side won their semi-final by the bare minimum against Stradbally of Waterford, while Crokes had an easy win over Tipperary champions Clonmel on their way to the decider.

“I suppose in the first half against Stradbally the conditions were so bad, and we didn’t adapt to them properly,” says Cahalane. “And they played well, they stuck to their plan. We went away from what we’re good at and we kicked some stupid balls, myself including.

“The conditions were definitely the worst I ever played in — nothing to do with Clon’s pitch, which was superb — and you could say we were lucky, but you make your own luck, too. The lads followed the ball in and got the goal.

“After that we dropped our intensity levels again, but they put us to the pin of our collars. We had to work hard to get out of it, but everyone knows their job — everyone knows what they’re good at and what they’re not good at, and everyone is pulling in the same direction.

“We knew Stradbally would be good, though — they’re seasoned, 12 of the 15 starters have played for Waterford, they were a bit older and cuter, they were used to the conditions because their own county final was played on a similar day.

“My Dad was talking to one of them afterwards and they said they were disappointed not to win, that they’d come down confident they could do it.”

Castlehaven will have to be better tomorrow. They know that.

“We played Crokes a few years ago in a challenge, my first year on the senior panel, and they were good that time — they were building to what they are now, if you like.

“Now they’re at the pinnacle of club football in Munster, and beyond if you put them together with Crossmaglen. We’ll be up against it but you can throw off the shackles a bit as well. I’ve huge admiration for them because they are where they are after doing a lot of hard work.

“Colm Cooper’s a legend of the game but when you look at Dáithí Casey, Kieran O’Leary, Brian Looney — you can’t over-focus on one guy because you could get melted on the other wing. We’ll have to get the match-ups right all over the field.”

On Leeside they’re watching Cahalane’s choices next year — he started for the hurlers in 2012 but Conor Counihan is surely going to give him a call soon.

“At the moment I’m just concentrating on Castlehaven and Sunday, we’ll see after that. Hopefully we’ll get a few more weeks out of it and I’ll think about it then.”



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