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Browne: 'Non-native players are going to be more and more important in GAA'

Niall Browne leaves the field after Clare’s qualifier loss to Down in 2011 Photo: Sportsfile
Niall Browne leaves the field after Clare’s qualifier loss to Down in 2011 Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

His is a unique position. Not many, if any, have represented both Kildare and Clare at senior inter-county football so Niall Browne's is a privileged, and awkward, position ahead of tomorrow's Division 3 final.

Frustrated by his inability to nail down a spot with the Lilywhites senior set-up, the Two Mile House clubman answered the call from Clare, where his mother was born, to play with the Banner.

A former minor and U-21 captain, he admits a lack of confidence made him no more than a "utility player" for Kildare's seniors. And that left a chasm in his career. Two years, and 43 appearances for Clare between 2011 and 2012, fulfilled a brief but "thoroughly enjoyable" experience in the west.

And if anyone understands the sacrifices which Dublin imports Shane McGrath and Pat Burke are making to play their part in the revolution under Colm Collins, Browne does. He sees the influx of non-native players as an essential move in demanding times.

"You could make the argument that Clare wouldn't have got to Division 2 without Shane McGrath and Pat Burke's contribution and what that does is, young lads in Clare say 'my county is a Division 2 side, maybe I will go training, maybe I will commit'," Browne said.

"It's really going to be big in the next 15-20 years because what's happening is... I work in human resources and I can see that there's very little opportunities around the west of Ireland. More and more people are moving to Dublin.

"Coming from a football background they're having kids and they're staying in Dublin. A lot of local small parishes are losing all these guys and they're losing their offspring and their breeding.

"There'll obviously be a natural objection because it goes against playing where you're from but there has to be a recognition that my father and mother didn't have a chance to set up a life there but maybe I can go represent them."

Browne isn't surprised by the progress in Clare despite hurling's influence and says "you'd rarely see a hurl west of Ennis" admitting that a Croke Park win would do more for Collins and his side than Kildare.

He expects Kildare to be "knocking on the door" in the near future regardless and has been impressed with their application under Cian O'Neill, but not surprised. O'Neill overwhelmed him long before he took the reins having helped out John Crofton's team preparations back in 2007.

"Louth beat Limerick in the Qualifiers and we played the winners. Cian had been working with Limerick and John said 'there's a young lad down in Limerick and he's done a little bit of research on the game for us'," he said.

"I remember there was this 10- or 15-page report and I'd never seen anything like it in terms of the detail: the team dynamic of Louth, their strong players, their weak players, their habits on the ball, a full and complete analysis.

"I remember thinking, 'what is this? This is new age.' I always had that in the back of my head about Cian and I suppose he brings that academic philosophy to it. He's seen how the best counties do it so you'd hope that they can challenge Dublin over the next few years."

So what mast are his colours nailed to? Clubmate Peter Kelly will captain Kildare while good friend Gordon Kelly opposes him.

"You have to fancy Kildare but if Clare's big men like Tubridy and Brennan can get on the ball enough they could cause an upset. I'm on the fence," he concluded.

If ever there was a no-win situation, this is it. But at least they're both already promoted.

Irish Independent

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