Jonathan Bealin keeps up the intercounty tradition a little further south

The son of former Dublin player Paul has been making his mark with Wexford

Wexford’s Jonathan Bealin  in action against Louth’s Emmet Carolan during the first round of the Leinster SFC last summer. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Wexford’s Jonathan Bealin in action against Louth’s Emmet Carolan during the first round of the Leinster SFC last summer. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

 

Jonathan Bealin’s new home is nestled between his two old ones – in Dublin and Wexford.

Before Christmas Bealin bought a house on the north Wicklow border with his girlfriend, Michelle. Despite the coronavirus outbreak he’s still making the short commute into work in Blanchardstown.

Back to the city where he spent his youth, when his father wore the blue of Dublin through the 90s, including the glorious summer of 1995. But only a 25-minute drive too from his new club in Wexford, the county he now represents.

“I’m working in a biopharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb,” explains the 27-year-old who made his intercounty championship debut last summer. “We are 24/7 so we have kept a kind of skeleton crew in for the next two weeks, we’ll assess it then. It’s grand. We are in the manufacturing building so it’s not even an office, it’s more of a cleanroom suite that we’re in, it’s probably the cleanest place you can be in when I think about it.”

Prior to the outbreak, Paul Galvin’s Wexford team were one point off the top two places in Division Four of the league, with Bealin scoring 1-7 in their five matches. Last year he was the top scorer in the division – in his first intercounty league campaign – and only three players across all the divisions outscored him. All having played a game more than the Wexford forward.

“The year didn’t work out as we would’ve hoped but I really enjoyed the experience, and then we won the club championship with Castletown. Playing with my brothers on the panel, so that was special.” Bealin scored 0-7 on his championship debut but Wexford still collapsed late on against Louth before a heavy defeat to Derry in the qualifiers ended their summer in the first week of June.  

“I know the commitment that it takes at this level and I understand there’s plenty of guys that mightn’t have had success and have walked away or felt frustrated, but definitely there’s a different mindset with me.

“I’m coming in a little later, and I definitely appreciate it a little bit more. Because I know, I’ve played club football for long enough and I know how few and far these opportunities come around. And it is only a short window that you are playing – so you’ve got to grab them.” 

Bealin played for his father’s Ballyboden St Enda’s club in south Dublin before his family moved to Wexford just over 10 years ago. He grew up playing with a number of the Dublin champions’ current squad such as Ryan Basquel, before switching school, club and county.

Dublin’s Paul Bealin challenges Donegal’s Anthony Molloy during the 1992 All-Ireland football final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Dublin’s Paul Bealin challenges Donegal’s Anthony Molloy during the 1992 All-Ireland football final. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

His mother had always wanted to live in the countryside, and after his father Paul had spent time in Wexford managing their senior footballers the pair felt the sunny south east was the perfect fit for their family of six. Two years with the Castletown club led to a first senior championship medal for Jonathan, while the classy attacker was also selected on the Wexford minor team.

Once he began studying in DCU, however, he moved back to Dublin, lining out for Parnells under the stewardship of Brian Talty. Playing in his father’s position of midfield for the large part, he captained the team for two of his six years there before making “the difficult decision to uproot” again and return to Wexford in 2018.

There were 14 players in last year’s football championship squads (not including London or New York) who had transferred in from different counties. Bealin was one of six to leave Dublin, and although his situation is different, it still demonstrates the difficulty in trying to breakthrough to the Dublin senior squad.

“The sheer number of players involved in Dublin championships at all the grades, is really high and I suppose every player wants to play at the best level while they still can. And every player feels like they’ve a lot to offer – well the ambitious players do. 

“I played with really good club players down in Parnells and I might’ve felt at the time, Jesus if this guy got a chance he’d probably do all right. He’d probably hold his own. I think the last couple of years it’s gotten extrememly competitive, you see the strength of the Dublin squad – it’s not even the Dublin team anymore – compared to what it was maybe 10 years ago.

“You really have to be a top, top player to even be looked at. My situation was slightly different in the sense that my family lived in Wexford and played with the local team, but yes there has been guys that have transferred to play at a higher level. Because yes they feel like they have got something to offer and yes they’re ambitious.”

Bealin never did get an opportunity with Dublin, not that it was his main focus. During his four years in DCU he won a Sigerson Cup in 2015, and like the Parnells team which at the time contained the likes of Colm Begley and Conor Mortimer, he was competing within an intensely competitive squad in similarly testing competitions.

“I was enjoying playing club football, playing with DCU. I never thought about it in too much detail to be honest. I was trying to break into the Parnells senior team which was a really good team when I joined them. They were Division One and they had some top players playing with them from all over the country.

“Division One football in Dublin is very, very competitive. You could compare it to intercounty. Your back is nearly against the wall, playing against really top players every week. Even the club panels themselves are really competitive, so you’re probably fighting for your place and you don’t really have time to think about anything else.

“There was a period of time we were training twice in a day for a part of the season. The professionalism from my experience was right up there, you could say that some of the top Dublin clubs are training just as hard as the county teams.”

Bealin has taken the road less travelled but in a short space of time has already announced himself as a quality intercounty footballer. Just like his father. But though they might look the same, the pair are very different players.

“I wouldn’t say pressure but there was always a comparison. Not so much now, but maybe back when I was a teenager, almost an expectation. But I am a completely different footballer than my Dad was. I’d have learned a lot of basics from him, but I guess the game has developed so much over the last 10 or 15 years that it’s kind of hard to compare players then and now.

“But when you grow up in a household with someone who has played and had success at that sort of level, then you’d naturally always have an element of wanting to emulate it or carry on that type of footballing tradition.” So far so good, although the coronavirus crisis has pressed the pause button on his progress.

“Obviously the severity of it isn’t good but maybe at the end of this season teams will look back and say this period of isolation almost made our season. You can work on your actual skillset, outside of training it’s very hard to do that. You might get 10 or 15 minutes against a wall. So to have the amount of time that we do at the moment can only be good.” 

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