Friday 18 October 2019

Dublin stalwart Cluxton leads dad's army into championship battle once more

Waterford's Noel Connors. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Waterford's Noel Connors. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Waterford hurler Noel Connors recently suggested that an inter-county career was averaging out at around eight years because of demands and a desire to go off and do other things. The era of the 'lifer', he suggested, was, by and large, at an end.

When the GAA and GPA commissioned a report on the activity and time invested by inter-county players, the report by the ESRI came back with a figure of 31 hours for the average player, feeding into that belief that careers would ultimately be shortened.

At four separate venues over the weekend, four players will step back into the championship glare to defy Connors' projected average by doubling, or more than doubling, the time span he suggested.

Stephen Cluxton has just about every other record in the game, so why not the player with the longest championship service?

Cluxton is on the cusp of a 19th season as an inter-county footballer, having made his debut against Longford in the 2001 Leinster Championship.

If, and when, Dublin reach the Leinster semi-final next month, courtesy of an expected win over Louth in Portlaoise this evening, Cluxton will make his 100th championship appearance, a record unlikely to be surpassed.

In Castlebar, Andy Moran, who has already got championship season No 16 under way in New York, will add weight to Mayo's quest to get back into a Connacht final for the first time in four years.

Ross Munnelly and Niall McNamee started their inter-county championship careers within a short space of each other in 2003 and after McNamee returned from a year's retirement earlier this year, his career span increased to 17 years against Meath.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

Tomorrow in Tullamore, Munnelly will join him as the joint-second longest-serving Gaelic footballer, a distinction also shared by Vinny Corey who began life in a Monaghan championship shirt when they took down then All-Ireland champions Armagh, also in 2003.

Donegal's Paul Durcan returned home from a near four-year spell in Qatar but he recently accepted an invitation to return to the Donegal squad, 15 years and 16 championship campaigns on from his debut against Antrim in 2004.

Dessie Mone is just a year behind his Clontibret and Monaghan colleague Corey, having played in the 2004 championship too.

Mayo's Keith Higgins is still going strong, 14 years after his championship debut in 2005, the same year that David Clarke first featured in a championship game, although Clarke's link with Mayo senior teams goes back to the 2001 league campaign.

Cian Mackey's service to Cavan is probably a little under-appreciated, given that he started out on the championship road in 2005, a year after Seánie Johnston's debut.

It's hard to appreciate that Michael Murphy is not yet 30, but in Enniskillen tomorrow he will be embarking on his 13th championship campaign, having made his bow against Leitrim in a 2007 qualifier when still a minor.

Collectively, Laois could lay claim to probably having the longest-serving core of players in the game.

Apart from Munnelly, Colm Begley, Brendan Quigley, Mark Timmons, Kevin Meaney, Donie Kingston and John O'Loughlin all have 10 years' service or more, even if some of them might have missed chunks of time in between.

Conal Keaney and Eoin Cadogan can also lay claim to this elite bunch. Keaney no longer plays football for Dublin, but his service to the hurlers continues under Mattie Kenny's stewardship, while Cadogan is a Cork hurling regular too.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport