Cork’s dual stars now facing a demanding schedule

Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane switch their focus back to football for the next few weeks

Cork’s Damien Cahalane battles with Clare’s Peter Duggan during the Munster senior hurling semi-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Cork’s Damien Cahalane battles with Clare’s Peter Duggan during the Munster senior hurling semi-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 16:59

There continues to be some confusion over the exact limits of the dual player – certain managers telling them no way can they expect to play both codes at the highest level, other managers perfectly happy to let them away with it.

That opposing view comes into focus again in the aftermath of Cork’s Munster hurling semi-final win over All-Ireland champions Clare because as Cork march on, their dual players some of the shining lights, Clare’s stumbling is being at least partly blamed on the overexertion of one of their stars.

Now, with Damien Cahalane and Aidan Walsh set to resume duty with the Cork footballers this week ahead of Saturday evening’s Munster football semi-final against Tipperary (Eoin Cadogan also intends to play both codes this season, health permitting), there is fresh doubt about the role of Podge Collins as the Clare footballers prepare to face Kerry in the other semi-final, set for Ennis on Sunday.

“That’s the joys of it, juggling both codes,” says Cahalane, a pivotal figure in Cork’s defence on Sunday. “It’s shoulder to the wheel now for the footballers next week, and we’re just looking forward to it.”

Last season, Cahalane limited himself to playing with just the Cork footballers, who were possibly seen as the more exciting prospect at the time too. He’d played hurling too in 2012, although he admits it wasn’t easy watching from the stands as Cork same so close to winning the Liam McCarthy.

“It would have been selfish to say I felt I should have been there,” he reckons. “I didn’t feel I should have been there. I wasn’t part of the panel last year. But I had been part of the panel the year before. I felt the lads’ heartbreak after losing those finals. I was absolutely disgusted for them. This (beating Clare on Sunday) is just a small step along the road of putting things right. But I missed it last year, definitely.”

Great ball

Cahalane – who played more out the field on Sunday to mark Peter Duggan – also bombed over a point from around 80 metres in the first half which helped send Cork on the way.

“My first hurling point in championship,” he recalls. “I don’t think I’ve ever found myself that far out the pitch before. It was a great ball from Aidan (Walsh). I found myself in a bit of space but there were lads rushing towards me so I felt I’d better hit the shot quick. I got it off and it went over. I was just delighted to see it.”

Collins, meanwhile, has been juggling both codes for Clare so far this season, a decision at least partly based on the fact his father, Colm, is the Clare footballer manager. But Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald has reiterated his view that playing both codes is simply too demanding a task.

“There are a few lads who think they can play both codes,” says Fitzgerald. “You can’t do it. Listen, you can’t take away what the lads have done, but I am worried because there’s been a lot taken out of the lads. We gave away three weeks up to the clubs as well. I think we will struggle in the qualifiers.”

Hurling preparations

In both cases, the demands won’t get any easier. Assuming Cork beat Tipperary on Saturday evening, their Munster football final is set for July 6th (also at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, assuming Kerry progress against Clare).

Cork’s Munster hurling final against Limerick is set for the following Sunday, July 13th, and given the performance of Cahalane and Walsh on Sunday (Walsh making several memorable catches around midfield), hurling manager Jimmy Barry Murphy will be anxious that the big ball doesn’t interrupt the Rebels’ hurling preparations.

Cahalane also admits that making that Munster hurling final, the last game to be played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before the bulldozers move in for the complete refurbishment, was an added motivation on Sunday.

“It would be wrong to say that we weren’t thinking about it. It is a massive incentive, the last Munster final to ever be played down there. It was something to really set your eyes on, and say you wanted to win to get to that. It’ll give the Cork fans a great day out in the Páirc. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a Munster hurling final there so it’ll be interesting.”

Cork forward Conor Lehane shared that motivation, and felt that the prospect of a home Munster hurling final – plus the incentive of a chance to avenge last year’s defeat – was strong.

Limerick, despite being champions, will start as underdogs. But Lehane believes Cork have already learned two key lessons from 2013.

“We did look back over the year to see where we went wrong, and what could get us over the final line, and physicality, and not starting well, were two of the main issues that came up,” he says. “And when something like that is pointed out, you can’t help but take it on, improve on it, and expect a much better performance out of yourself and the team when it comes to the big days.”

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