Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 24 March 2018



(Former Cork footballer)

NIALL CAHALANE is probably best remembered as the defensive rock on which many a Kerry, Meath or Dublin attack foundered in the 1980s and '90s, but he has always been first and foremost a Castlehaven man.

He was on the periphery of the team when they turned senior and reached their first county final in 1979; 10 years later he was a defensive stalwart when they won the title for the first time. He was captain in '94, when they won their second title, and then there was their last triumph.

"In 2003, when I was 40, playing midfield and thoroughly enjoying it," he recalls, "we won the county final again. My legs were not what they had been but I thought I knew it all. I was reading things very differently, much better and cuter. Then at 41 the legs packed up and that was it."

Castlehaven haven't won it since Cahalane retired, but they were losing finalists last year, and hope to put that right today when they meet Duhallow in the final. There will be significant Cahalane input too, as Niall is a selector, and his son Damien, who has just turned 20, will line out.

"We're not over-confident," he says, "but confident in our ability to do well. Whether that's good enough I don't know. I would prefer to be playing a club team than a divisional side like Duhallow. Divisional teams, if they get it right, can pose a lot of problems."

Cahalane, who won minor, under 21 and two senior All-Irelands, was a renowned man-marker. Manager Billy Morgan usually gave him the job of marking the opposition's danger man.

"I was adaptable and could play corner-back or wing-back and just appeared to get little jobs to do and was thick enough and stubborn enough to do them," he jokes. "I got lucky a couple of times but there were times when it went horribly wrong as well."

In his early days with Cork, he was based in Castlehaven, which meant a 120-mile round trip three or four times a week to training. "To be fair to the county board, they paid for a taxi to pick us up, they gave us a bit of grub after training and the taxi left us back after that. It was something that grew on you. We didn't know any different.

"I married Ailish and we moved to Cork in the early '90s, and then I was going back to Castlehaven for the club two to three times a week. And now my three boys play football with Castlehaven, I'm a senior selector and I train the under 21s. Fortunately, Ailish, who is also from Castlehaven, is very supportive." Their four girls are also keen camogie and football players.

Work-wise, Niall is in real estate. "We had great years and then some not so pretty in the last half-dozen, but I'm confident we're on some bit of a turn now."

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