Last of the crown duals
Cork two-code hero Murphy hails Lee Chin's dedication to preserving great tradition against stiff odds
THE most successful dual player of all time sends his best wishes to Lee Chin, the 20-year-old Wexford man who has a double championship booking inside 24 hours this weekend.
Chin will play at midfield for the hurlers against Dublin in Wexford Park this evening (7.0) and is named at left full-back on the football team to play Louth in tomorrow's all-ticket game in Drogheda (3.30).
"Good luck to him – it's a great experience. You won't see much of it happening in the modern game. Two championship games in less than 24 hours will be hard going. All the lads who combined hurling and football down the years will be delighted to see that someone is trying to keep the tradition going," said former Cork dual star Brian Murphy.
Cork have produced 11 of the 18 players who won All-Ireland senior medals in both hurling and football, and while the list includes such high-profile names as former Taoiseach Jack Lynch, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Ray Cummins, Denis Coughlan, Denis Walsh and Teddy McCarthy, none can match Murphy's total haul in all grades.
He is the only player in history who has won All-Ireland medals at minor, U-21 and senior grade in both hurling and football. He is also a member of the exclusive four-member club that holds All Stars in both codes. Barry-Murphy, Cummins and Liam Currams (Offaly) make up the rest of the membership.
Given Wexford's standing, it's unlikely that Chin will enjoy as much success but the fact he is willing to take on such a demanding challenge is a refreshing development at a time when the dual player is all but extinct in most counties.
"It's not impossible to play both football and hurling at county level nowadays but it's very, very difficult. There are several weekends when there are rounds of the National Hurling and Football Leagues on at the same time, and qualifiers are there now too," said Murphy.
"It was different in my time. The leagues started before Christmas and we didn't have that many days when hurling and football were played together."
However, Murphy believes that every effort should be made to accommodate players who are good enough to play hurling and football at the highest level.
"It's about getting your best players playing for the county and if that happens to be lads who are good enough for football and hurling, it seems a pity if they can't play both," he said.
"I know managers nowadays want players to be totally committed to one or the other and with so much training involved, it's hard to combine two sports, but you wonder if more could be done to accommodate both."
Murphy's success rate in both codes was truly phenomenal from his college days with Colaiste Chriost Ri in the late 1960s right through to retirement in the mid-80s. Remarkably, he won a Munster or national title in either hurling or football – and quite often in both – every year between 1968 and 1984.
One of his early highlights was captaining Colaiste Chriost Ri to an All-Ireland colleges' football title in 1970, beating St Malachy's, Belfast in the final in Croke Park with a last-minute goal (4-5 to 1-13).
Interestingly, one of St Malachy's star forwards was Martin O'Neill (he scored 0-3), who went on to become a massive figure as a soccer player and manager.
Murphy was a corner-back in both hurling and football, with the former yielding All-Ireland medals in 1976, '77 and '78 and the latter returning gold in 1973.
"I played for Cork senior in both hurling and football for seven years but as times moved on, it became harder to combine both, so I concentrated on the hurling. I had a slight preference for it, I suppose," said Murphy.
Cork were always very good at making sure that the dual players were accommodated and everybody gained as a result. I always hated afterwards when I heard of counties where there were disputes between football and hurling over players who were equally good at both. It should not have happened."
Teddy McCarthy, a dual All-Ireland winner in 1990, Denis Walsh, Brian Corcoran and Sean Og O hAilpin are good examples of Cork players who combined both codes in later years, but Eoin Cadogan's decision to concentrate on football solely this year suggests that the era of the dual player is over in a county that, historically, was so good at embracing the double-mandate.
Cadogan explained that he had opted for the big ball because he felt he had played better football than hurling last year. He insisted that it had nothing to do with the widely-held view that a modern-day Cork dual player, who had to make a choice, would opt for football as it offers a better chance of success.
Whether the likelihood of All-Ireland glory had anything to do with Ciaran Kilkenny's decision to concentrate solely on being part of Jim Gavin's Dublin football adventure rather than attempt to combine it with playing for the hurlers is unknown.
Whatever his reason, there's no doubt that his decision was a blow to Anthony Daly's plans for the season.
Daly has had Conal Keaney on board for the last few seasons – he returned to hurling after a lengthy spell with the footballers, a path also followed by Shane Ryan at the end of his football days.
Opting for one code before returning to the other avoided conflict for Keaney and Ryan, while Kilkenny's decision to build his inter-county career with the footballers has also made for a quiet life. However, Daly will surely be wondering when he sees Chin line up for Wexford this evening how much stronger Dublin would be if Kilkenny had opted for dual sporting citizenship.
The last player to come close to landing the All-Ireland hurling-football double was Galway's Alan Kerins in 2001. He was a major presence on the hurling team which reached the final, where they lost to Tipperary, and a few weeks later came on as a sub as the footballers overwhelmed Meath.
Limerick was one county where friction arose quite often when players tried to combine hurling and football but the reality is that managers everywhere want exclusive access to their squads.
"You can understand it from a manager's perspective. He's under pressure to do the best for whatever code he's involved in and doesn't want a distraction for any of his players. It's still a pity, though, that really talented lads can't play both.
"That's why it's great to see Lee Chin having a go at the dual role in Wexford. Everyone will wish him the best," said Murphy.
Murphy never got a chance to play in senior All-Irelands in the one year as Cork hurlers lost to Tipperary in the Munster semi-final of 1973, the year the footballers won the All-Ireland.
And when the hurlers were going well later in the decade, Cork's football ambitions ran aground against Kerry every year.