Brian Hurley learned how to split the posts from an early age

Castlehaven’s star forward is just happy to be playing after early setback

Castlehaven’s Sean Cahalane and Brian Hurley

Castlehaven’s Sean Cahalane and Brian Hurley

Sat, Nov 2, 2013, 00:22

In Union Hall, they talk fish and they talk football. They talk about other bits and pieces too but you’ve really got to want it to hear it. Brian Hurley grew up less than 30 metres from the pier’s edge and if you strolled on the street past his house today you wouldn’t know you were walking flat across his own Croke Park.

The second youngest of the four Hurley brothers who will line out for Castlehaven tomorrow against Dr Crokes, he has kicked points on that street since he was old enough to get the ball in the air. They all have.

From Shane (30) to Stephen (25) to Brian (21) to Michael (17). Same drill each time. Feed ball, catch ball, loop out around the pole and aim between the two top windows of the house. You split the posts or you break a window. So you learn to split the posts.

Few have learned it as well as Brian Hurley. In the six games it took Castlehaven to retain the Cork county title, Hurley was responsible for just over half of their scores. He kicked 3-47 of their 7-83, including a 12-point haul in the final against Nemo Rangers. Sitting in the library of Carlow IT where he has spent the past four years, he is a warm glow when it comes to his homeplace.

‘It’s very quiet’
“In the winter, it’s very quiet,” he says. “At weekends like, there’d be times you’d be looking out the window and seeing leaves blow through the street and you’d be thinking, ‘Jeez, what am I going to do for the weekend?’ It’s good and relaxing at the same time. All anyone does is talk about football and fishing. There’s nothing much else going on. I work in the fish factory when I’m there so I’m joined to the two of them.”

Castlehaven is a parish covering two eye-drop villages in west Cork, Union Hall and Castletownshend. On a summer’s day with the students home, they’d claim a population of around 1,100. They’re tucked tight by a couple of inlets on the coast a few miles back from Skibbereen, with whose club O’Donovan Rossa they enjoy a rivalry that would melt iron.

Hurley was a toddler when Castlehaven beat them in the 1994 county final but the stars of that team were his heroes for life. Larry Tompkins, Niall Cahalane, John Cleary, endless Collinses. And the sons of those stars are the friends and neighbours with whom he’s just picked up back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history.

“We’re a very close bunch. If we’re going playing pitch and putt, there’s eight or nine of us rather than one or two. If we go to the cinema, there could be 15 of us taking up two or three rows. If we go out on the boat fishing, the boat could nearly be sinking leaving the harbour because we’d all be on it.”

Lasted six minutes
His entire football career was very nearly stillborn. When first he rolled in with the Cork seniors in the summer of 2011, he lasted all of six minutes in a trial game before having to leave the field.

“I found that I had a fracture in my spine, a stress fracture in my L4 vertebra. That put me out of the 2011 season. It was a combination of wear and tear from playing a lot of football, doing weights and also the fishing stuff. I’d be out on the boat and lifting 40 kilo boxes of fish but not bending my back the right way.

“I know I’m very fortunate to be playing. Any time you see me in the Cork set-up, I always have a smile on my face because I remember how down I was in 2011. The 21s won the Munster that year against Kerry and I didn’t know whether to celebrate or to cry. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. The lads above in Santry were incredible and we fixed it through exercises rather than surgery. I know I’m very lucky.”

They head to Killarney tomorrow to resume battle against Dr Crokes. When the sides met in the Munster club final last year, Castlehaven froze. Crokes waltzed around them as they pleased in a game that was over at half-time.

“We didn’t perform to our best and definitely I didn’t. The game passed me by.”

Win or lose tomorrow, take it he won’t allow the game pass him by.

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