Cork GAA clubs reveal how they balance dual demands in the new format

Mark Woods spoke to mentors from St Finbarr's, Nemo and Newmarket about the challenges the round-robin system poses to hurlers and footballers trying to play both codes
Cork GAA clubs reveal how they balance dual demands in the new format

Billy Hennessy, St Finbarr's, holding off Andrew Cagney, Charleville, during their Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC match in Mallow. Picture: Dan Linehan

IT’S that time of the season when dual club players reacquaint themselves with the hurley after concentrating on football in the past weeks.

Readjusting to the unique features of the small-ball game simply doesn’t happen overnight as some adapt quicker than others.

And it affects all clubs regardless of their standing in either code, whether you’re from St Finbarr’s or Douglas who are the only two operating in both premier senior championships or say Nemo Rangers, who have designs on junior hurling success in their centenary year.

The vast majority of clubs have the dual-card mandate while a tiny few play one only like Castlehaven in football and Newtownshandrum in hurling.

Yet, you’ve the Cahalane brothers, Damien, Conor and Jack who hurl with the ’Barr’s at the top level so there’s little respite for them.

The Togher club have Paul O’Keeffe in charge of the footballers and Ger Cunningham at the helm for the hurlers with the former outlining the challenges confronting the dual player.

“We’ve had that experience over the last three or four years and it is fairly brutal on them, to be fair,” O’Keeffe told The Echo.

“The likes of Ethan Twomey, Brian Hayes and the others involved went straight back into this week.

“And it means three or four games on the trot for them before the next game for us which is Carrigaline and it’s going to be difficult.

“The main thing is to try and manage the load for these guys, making sure you keep them fresh.

“And it is hard, week on week, but we’re used to and we did the target the game against Éire Óg to give us that kind of a cushion.

“That’s not taking anything for granted, of course, but it does make life easier in that you probably only need to win one of the remaining two games to get out of the group.” 

Billy Hennessy is another stand-out player in both football and hurling and was a central figure in the club’s Cork and Munster successes in football in 2021, highlighting his own commendable commitment to both.

While those on the outside peering in might consider Nemo to be a football-only club, their history and desire to do well in hurling reveals a different story.

Just because the Trabeg club might function well down the pecking order in hurling doesn’t mean it’s a mere afterthought, reflected in their recent Seandún league final victory over Passage, making them one of the fancies for the championship as a consequence.

“We’ve eight fellows who started in the hurling final and another half dozen or so also involved,” said football manager Paul O’Donovan after last weekend’s victory over Newcestown.

“It brings its own challenges obviously, but if Nemo win against Bishopstown on Sunday it will be the only game before we play Castlehaven.” 

And Newcestown are of many clubs who play at high levels in both just like Mallow their Senior A hurling opponents in Coachford on Saturday.

Yet, if you’re looking for the best example of being able to cope with the demands of both then don’t go beyond Kanturk.

They were involved in thrilling 2021 wins over Newceston, after extra-time in the semi-final, and Fr O’Neill’s in the decider to capture the senior A hurling crown.

A couple of weeks later, with practically the same group of players, Kanturk reached the PIFC final, where they went down narrowly to neighbours Newmarket.

The Walsh clan, John and Lorcán McLoughlin, Darren and John Browne, Liam O’Keeffe, Liam Cashman and many more can mix both successfully.

 Kanturk's John McLoughlin and Blarney's Shane Mulcahy, battle for the ball during their Senior A Hurling Championship clash at Mallow. Picture: David Keane.
Kanturk's John McLoughlin and Blarney's Shane Mulcahy, battle for the ball during their Senior A Hurling Championship clash at Mallow. Picture: David Keane.

And Newmarket’s approach to both is also interesting as football captain TJ Brosnan outlined.

Niall McIntyre is coach of both the football and hurling teams with 12-13 starters in both. It would be very hard to handle separate managers so the club brought the two of them together.

“There are selectors for both football and hurling and they work well together.

“That’s the approach we took a couple of years ago.

“Newmarket are going well, recently winning the Duhallow league, but up against a very strong Dromtarriffe team who’ll be one of the championship favourites.

“The big thing is to manage the dual aspect correctly,” Brosnan commented.

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