Tuesday 20 August 2019

Criticism of Dubs an excuse to take swipe at Series - Heslin

St Loman's glory always the priority for club captain

John Heslin of St Loman's Mullingar. Photo: Sportsfile
John Heslin of St Loman's Mullingar. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Criticism of the absence of Dublin players from the Irish International Rules squad in Australia should be set against the context of Richmond Tigers, the reigning AFL champions, not being represented on the Australian squad either, St Loman's and Westmeath star John Heslin has suggested.

Speaking at a Leinster GAA media event to promote this weekend's AIB club football semi-finals, Heslin, who didn't make the Irish squad, revealed he couldn't have gone anyway with club commitments and his background in farming.

The talented forward was briefly on the books of Richmond and feels little has been made of the absence of their players from the Series, by comparison to Dublin.

"No media man has highlighted that. So that was quite an interesting fact, they took their time off and celebrated their win and went around with the cup, as the Dublin boys are at as well."

Heslin feels that criticism of Dublin may be a way of getting at the Series itself.

"Maybe they are trying to have a pop at it. Look, I suppose that's what keeps the media boys in business, everyone can't be positive.

"There has to be some negatives coming as well, to keep a healthy relationship. Should some of them have played? Possibly, it's up to themselves.

"No more so than anyone gets asked to do anything. I was asked to come here (Croke Park) and I said I'd come, I'd make myself available. No one held a gun to my head saying I had to come.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

"A lot of the Dublin players have probably done it before. They'd a long campaign. That's their third All-Ireland in a row. Jack McCaffrey made the point that a lot of them had club commitments as well. Only for the club you wouldn't be playing with the county, and only for that you wouldn't have been given the opportunity to represent your country. So if your club are calling you, you have to answer that call. A lot of the Dublin players did that.

Heslin would relish the opportunity to represent Ireland again, he admitted. "I was in before. I was good enough a while ago, I wasn't good enough (now)," he laughed.

"Maybe some time down the line I might get that opportunity. But you can't disagree with someone's opinion to not call you in. I wouldn't feel hard done by at all. There's a fantastic group at that level, a toss of a coin between anyone.

"There's a number of lads who would have felt hard done by not going this year and the years before. One guy in particular, Gearoid McKiernan, didn't get going and he's a fantastic player. There would be a lot of other lads that would have felt aggrieved.

"I was involved with the trials the last couple of years and it was a fantastic experience, training and kicking around with those lads and trying the international rules. But it's quite a demand, as well, when you're in the club. Because you'd usually train Friday (with Ireland), stay Friday night and train on Saturday morning.

"Saturday is when I get a lot of my farming work done at home as well, so it wouldn't have suited from that side of things.

"But I would have said at the start of the year as well that (winning) three-in-a-row with the club and being captain as well would have meant a lot more to me than going to Australia.

"I know that people might say, 'Oh Jesus, you get to represent your country, it's fantastic.' Maybe another time I might get that opportunity."

Heslin lit up the recent Westmeath county final with a scintillating individual goal and was instrumental as they pushed themselves over the line for revenge against Mullinalaghta the last day.

The introduction of four substitutes helped to turn the game their way and Heslin believes their manager Luke Dempsey, in charge for all three titles having delivered two in succession for Moorefield in Kildare before that, deserved so much credit.

"Luke has a fantastic record but it's gas within the GAA and I suppose the Irish psyche that people still question him.

"That win over Mullinalaghta, it wasn't the team that asked for those substitutions to be made, it wasn't the referee that stopped the game and said 'Luke, I think you need to bring on a lad' or somebody coming down from the stand saying 'Luke, bring on such and such'.

"Luke and his management team made the decisions to bring on those lads and we got over the line. A lot of credit has to go to him for that, as credit has to go to him for his role in us winning three-in-a-row. Obviously the football ability has been there but to do three-in-a-row is a huge mental ask."

Loman's face Meath champions Simonstown Gaels in the semi-final and the full-forward has put Westmeath thoughts on the back-burner.

"I don't really reflect too often because you get caught up then and you wouldn't stay in the moment," he said.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Tipp throw off the shackles while Kilkenny’s soul-searching begins

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport