TO play or not to play? That is the question. Or maybe it should be phrased ‘to hurl or not to hurl’?
It’s weekend number three in the county championships with hurling taking precedence for the second consecutive time after football opened a season like no other.
For dual club footballers and hurlers it really is bonanza time, three championship weekends one after the other with a fourth to come next week for round 2 in football.
Time was when it was a matter of course for players to switch codes without any fuss because that was the norm.
But, as we’ve witnessed at inter-county level the days of the dual player lining out with their county are practically gone and, sadly, it looks like the club scene is heading in the same direction, though with honourable exceptions.
St Finbarr’s, for example, are steeped in history in both football and hurling, especially during the 1970s and early 1980s, when they were All-Ireland club champions in both with practically the same group of players, barring the odd one or two.
It’s 40 years since the Togher club completed the Cork double and yet the prospects of not only the ’Barr’s or indeed anyone else emulating that magnificent achievement must be considered slim if non-existent.
They are one of three clubs operating in the highest tiers, the new-look premier county senior hurling and football championships, along with Bishopstown and Douglas.
The ’Barr’s, who won their ninth football title in 2018, began with a victory over Ballincollig before quickly switching to hurling for the game against Glen Rovers last weekend.
By my estimations they had half-a-dozen footballers starting with the hurlers, ranging from Jamie Burns and Glenn O’Connor to youngster Brian Hayes.
Others would have played for the intermediate team and more again would be part of the hurling panels.
And that’s not ignoring the Cahalane brothers either, Damien, Conor and Jack, who all play their football with Castlehaven.
So, basically you’re talking about a number in double digits who play both codes at the highest levels.
Bishopstown, who played Douglas in football and Newtownshandrum in hurling, contained half-a-dozen starters in both, including stalwarts like Ken O’Halloran, Eoin Byrne and Jamie O’Sullivan.
You could slot Diarmuid Lester into that category, too, though he didn’t start against Douglas, but was summoned from the bench in the first-half.
Interestingly, Douglas bucked the trend somewhat because they started with completely different teams against Bishopstown and Ballyhea in hurling.
Only three players figured in both. Shane Donegan was introduced against the Town and started against Ballyhea while Daniel Harte and Andy O’Connell came on in both.
The three city clubs are in action again this weekend.
Bishopstown meet Erin’s Own in Páirc Uí Rinn this afternoon at 2pm with Douglas facing Sarsfields at Páirc Uí Chaoimh tonight at 7.45pm.
Tomorrow, the ’Barr’s play Na Piarsaigh at Páirc Uí Rinn at 2pm.
Well-populated areas, of course, stand the greater chance of being able to field different teams in both.
Ballincollig, for example, play in the top tier in football and level three, the premier intermediate championship, in hurling.
The 2014 football champions had a handful of players beginning the games against the ’Barr’s in football and Watergrasshill in hurling.
Long-serving Liam Jennings and John Paul Murphy, as well as scorer-in-chief in both, Cian Dorgan, represent leading dual players with the ‘Village’.
The expanding Innishannon area has helped Valley Rovers compete at premier senior level in football with the hurlers in the premier intermediate grade.
Half the football team, which lined out against Nemo Rangers, turned to hurling against neighbours Ballinhassig last week, including Chris O’Leary, David Lynch and John Cottrell.
This afternoon in Cloughduv at 5pm ’Collig and Valleys square up in hurling before quickly turning their attentions to football against Clonakilty and Douglas respectively next weekend.
The big question is whether all these games in quick succession will take a toll on dual players?
Newcestown, in time, will supply the answer because they are a shining light of the dual player, operating at premier senior in football and senior ‘A’ in hurling.
They won both games against Ilen Rovers and Killeagh with practically the same players, who face Kanturk in hurling this afternoon in Coachford at 4pm.