FOR one member of the Cork backroom team, tomorrow’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A game against Wexford could present the possibility of divided loyalties.
However, Traolach Martin is firmly in the Cork camp, despite being a native of New Ross. A teacher at Christian Brothers College – where he co-manages the Dr Harty Cup team with Tony Wall – Martin went to college in UCC and then lived in Dublin from 2009-18 before moving to Ballygarvan, from where his wife Jennifer hails.
Having been part of the U20 set-up that won the 2020 and 2021 All-Ireland titles under Pat Ryan, Martin stepped up to the role of selector last year when Donal O’Mahony – a colleague at CBC – succeeded Ryan as manager.
After taking the senior job, Ryan got the old band back together and Martin – whose brother Éanna won two county SHC medals with Sarsfields under Ryan’s management – was delighted to pitch in.
“I was teaching in Terenure College and the GAA was starting off there at the time,” he says. “Through that, I began to get involved with Faughs and the Dublin underage teams – the team that we beat in the 2020 All-Ireland U20 final, I had them at U16 and U17.
“Then, in 2018, we moved back down and settled in Ballygarvan.
“I was involved with the teams in CBC, and then, when Pat got the U20 job, there’d have been a link through Éanna with Sars and Donal O’Mahony in the school so there was a joint connection. I’m five years in Cork and four years involved with Cork teams, which is kind of unusual!”
Having experienced the under-age set-ups in Dublin and Cork, Martin feels that things on Leeside have improved a lot in recent times.
“Even with the U20s the last few years, the strength and conditioning has come on in leaps and bounds,” he says.
“The Dublin U14, U15, U16s, they’d have been up in DCU doing that stuff, which was probably ahead of what was happening here, but that seems to be the norm now down here too.
“Definitely, that was a big thing with Pat at the start. The first championship was delayed because of Covid, so the lads got a lot of extra stuff done that they mightn’t have otherwise got done.
“You really saw the change in them and there are so many of them involved with the senior panel now, it’s continuing.
Such levels of continuity have helped to make the transition from U20 to senior feel easier.
“It’s funny,” Martin says, “in a way it doesn’t feel like a step up at all because you’re going into training and two-thirds of the backroom team from the U20s are there and two-thirds of the players are there.
“You know most of them already and that was a big help for Pat and the lads in terms of hitting the ground running. They knew most of them already and it felt like a continuation, really, of the last three years.”
Martin’s role is multi-faceted, taking in stats work on matchdays and then various coaching duties at training.
“At training, I’d be doing a bit of coaching and helping with the recovery of the lads coming back from injury,” he says. “I’m involved as well with the senior development squad, which is managed by Ronan Dwane, we played Tipp the other night.
“On matchdays, then, it’s all analysis stuff, up in the stand. The first two years with the U20s, it would have been similar to that – in training, everyone rows in and you’re different bits and pieces and then matchdays were full stats and doing the reports for training the following week.
“There are five of us doing that – Paul O’Sullivan, Peter O’Keeffe, who were with the U20s, and then Tomás Manning and Dave Nolan, who had been with the seniors last year. It’s nice to have a mix of the two.”
Tomorrow will represent his first competitive encounter with Wexford – last year, as an U20 selector, he was involved in two challenge matches, with his brother Éanna a selector with the Model County.
Being away from the sideline helps keep the emotions in check.
“There would have been a few underage games with Dublin but never championship,” he says.
“You’re a bit disconnected that way, but you’d always have a soft spot for them and keep an eye out. Even the last game, when the result of the Clare game was coming through, you wouldn’t be too happy!
“The analysis stuff is funny, it’s very different to being on the line, where you’re more emotionally involved, like when I was a selector last year with the U20s – you’re playing every ball.
“With the analysis, you’re sitting the stand and you’re more detached anyway – you’re watching everything and you’re noting things. It’s a bit of a different role!”