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Sun 20-Jan-2002 19:30
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The Demise of the Dual Player?
“I’m not anti-hurling, but I can only run my camp, and that’s the way I’m going to be running it.” And with that, Tommy Lyons made his decision clear. It now looks likely, barring an intervention by the county board, that dual code players from Dublin will have to choose between hurling and football at inter-county level. So, is this symptomatic of the modern GAA, where the level of ‘professionalism’ and commitment needed is such that players no longer have the time nor the energy to participate at the top level in both codes?
Dual code players have always been a feature of Gaelic games. Indeed, not alone do players participate in hurling and football, there’s also a litany of players who’ve won medals in handball as well. Let’s not forget about DJ Carey and his 20+ medals in hurling and handball. Recent times have been no different. Almost every county has had some dual code players; Dublin had the inimitable Vinnie Murphy, now sadly departed from the inter-county scene. Cork have Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Derry have Geoffrey McGonigle and of course Galway had Alan Kerins last season. And this is just to name a few of the more high profile names.
In terms of the current Dublin set up, there are several players who could now declare for either code. Shane Ryan is the one who is probably getting the most press coverage, but there are others: Risteard Brennan and David Henry to name just two. That said, all of those mentioned above played in the football challenge at the Blue Stars last week. And if that’s any indication of which way they’re going to declare come the start of the season proper, then Kevin Fennelly is going to be in a spot of bother to say the least. According to an interview in the ‘ Irish Times’, he “didn’t expect to be without so many of those dual players.” The fact that it looks like the majority of the potential dual code players are going to declare for the football team doesn’t bode well for Dublin hurling in the short term.
So what of dual code players nationwide in the short and long term? The physical demands placed on players of either code are increasing year by year as fitness levels become more and more important. The amount of time and energy that players have to commit to training and matches is phenomenal, especially given the amateur status of the GAA. And most players only have to train with one team. The level of commitment it takes to train and give 100% plus to two teams is frankly, unreal. As well as everything else, players also have to keep themselves mentally ‘up’ for more matches than their single code counterparts.
Last year saw Alan Kerins rise to prominence in Galway football circles, not least because he was the unknowing catalyst for the whole Donnellan fiasco. Kerins had been playing senior hurling during the championship, and he took up football as a way to keep fit in college and during the off season. Solid displays for Trinity College and Salthill earned him a call up to the senior football squad, where he played in every match during the championship. He wasn’t necessarily the star attraction, but Kerins was a very solid and reliable forward. The same is true of his displays in the hurling championships.
However, with the advent of the new system in hurling, it had looked for a while that he would have to choose between one code or the other. Now it seems that the system that allowed him to play both codes last year will allow him to try to win the double with Galway. All it took was some communication between John O’Mahoney and Noel Lane. Kerins’ training is split between both camps, which ensures a solid level of fitness and skill for both football and hurling. Surely the same sort of communication between Tommy Lyons and Kevin Fennelly wouldn’t have gone astray.
Everyone accepts the fact that players are dropped if their form dips or if they aren’t quite up for a match, and had that happened with any of the Dublin players, there would have been no problem. The problem is that the Dublin players were forced to choose between football and hurling. The players, the management and the fans never got the chance to see if their form dipped or if it improved. Who knows, playing in both codes could have worked wonders for their fitness and skill. But alas, it seems that we’ll never know.
It would seem that this summer, fans and managers will be keeping a close eye on the form of Alan Kerins and the players of any other county who elect to play in both codes.
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