Thursday 21 September 2017

Browne and O'Hara hoping to celebrate 40 years of service

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Between them their senior championship careers have collectively spanned an astonishing 40 years.

And on Sunday those two men from opposite ends of the country will share the common goal of more provincial glory in different codes.

Waterford hurler Tony Browne and Sligo footballer Eamonn O'Hara are the two great survivors of modern Gaelic games.

Neither is expected to start in the Munster hurling or Connacht football finals at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and Hyde Park respectively.

But in an era of such mammoth commitment for the inter-county player, their decades of service have to be acknowledged.

Browne is 39 this summer and has had 21 years with the Waterford seniors since making his debut in the 1992 Munster championship. He missed the following year when Waterford lost to Kerry in the biggest Munster hurling shock for many years, but since then he has virtually been ever-present.

Returned

When he returned in 2010 he had a pact with himself that he wouldn't hurl for Waterford beyond his 37th birthday, but those plans have been ripped up.

O'Hara, 37 this year, might have called time on his career last summer when he ruptured a cruciate ligament in a club game.

But he has battled back and despite suffering another setback in recent weeks which required a scope, he is expected to take his place on the Sligo bench in what will be his fifth Connacht final.

For hurling longevity, Browne is out on his own. Only Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins and Cork half-back Sean Og O hAilpin comes close, with championship debuts in 1995 and '96 respectively.

The number of hurlers who can source their championship debuts to the '90s has dwindled, with just the aforementioned trio plus Donal Og Cusack, Henry Shefflin and Brian Geary pre-dating the millennium.

The retirements of Kilkenny's Michael Kavanagh, Dublin's Shane Ryan and Cork's Ben O'Connor narrows the link with the '90s.

The number of footballers who can trace their championship origin back to the '90s doubles to 12, but the retirement of Tyrone's Brian Dooher and Offaly's Ciaran McManus at the end of last season leaves O'Hara in splendid isolation.

Only Kildare's Dermot Earley and Louth's Aaron Hoey come within three years of him, having made their debuts in 1997.

Sligo's Noel McGuire has become more peripheral this year but he is one of a quintet that includes Kerry's Tomas O Se and Galway's Padraic Joyce who started out in 1998.

Limerick's John Galvin is one of those who debuted in 1999; he has been sidelined for the last two championship seasons with a recurrence of a cruciate ligament injury that has required surgery on both occasions.

Irish Independent

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