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Footballers face battle to cope with toll of losses


Cork dual star Damien Cahalane has opted to focus on hurling alone in 2015. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE

Cork dual star Damien Cahalane has opted to focus on hurling alone in 2015. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE


Cork dual star Damien Cahalane has opted to focus on hurling alone in 2015. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE

Former Cork football captain and manager Larry Tompkins believes the county's status as a football power is under pressure as they try to absorb the loss of Ciaran Sheehan and now Aidan Walsh to other sports.

Tompkins expressed his view as Damien Cahalane followed Walsh by committing to the hurlers only for 2015.

Only Eoin Cadogan, of the three players who operated dual roles in 2014, has remained with the footballers who have undergone a massive transformation in personnel over the last 13 months since Brian Cuthbert took charge.

The ending of the facilitation of dual players is regretted by Tompkins who feels the Cork public will be short-changed by the development.

He feels Walsh's 2010 All-Ireland football medal may have influenced him towards opting for Jimmy Barry-Murphy's hurling squad, while Cahalane's residency in the city where he plays with St Finbarr's may have been factor in his decision.

Either way, it has weakened the footballers considerably in Tompkins' estimation. "These guys would be on the team," he said. "You would be looking at Aidan as a massive leader to the team. They are massive losses.

"A lot was made of the dual player issue. I just wonder was there too much made of it," he added.

"It's a pity that you have the likes of Aidan who have the capability of playing both sports at a high level that they can't give it a go for a few years. I think that was his intention.

"Aidan was very good against Clare and Limerick in hurling. If they didn't have him they probably wouldn't have won either game, it was a flop completely against Tipperary for everyone," said the 1990 All-Ireland-winning captain.

"I think it's probably a bit immature to be blaming a dual player for that. What were the other 14 players doing?

"It wasn't an easy choice. He probably feels he didn't do himself justice. He has an All-Ireland football medal won and it may be a case of feeling that he has to redeem himself.


"I look back at the time when Teddy McCarthy and Denis Walsh played for both teams. Okay people say you have the back-door games now but that time you had league before Christmas, there was no packing up for two or three months back then," he recalled. "If guys are good enough to play both at a high level it is a terrible pity to lose out on one and you don't see their talent."

The concept of the dual player now looks to be a thing of the past at the higher end of inter-county GAA following the end of facilitation in Cork and Lee Chin's decision to focus on hurling only in Wexford 12 months ago and the insistence of Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald that it had to be one code or the other in 2015 in their county.

Tipperary's Colin O'Riordan and Galway's Daithi Burke were technically dual players in 2014 but O'Riordan only joined the hurling squad after the elimination of the footballers while Burke went in the opposite direction after the Galway hurlers' loss to Tipperary.

"It's going to be forced upon them now every year to choose one or another," admitted Tompkins.

"I remember meeting Aidan and saying to him, 'Fair play to you, you are having a cut off it'. It was his intention that he might give it three or four years. It comes down to the individuals.

"A lot of it has to be do with the make-up of the person, work, social life.

"Aidan is with a club that is strong in hurling and football. Like the Cork set-up, if he was asked to choose there it would be difficult too. Kanturk would be a strong enough front-runner for intermediate honours and then he has his division Duhallow too. That's thrown into the mix.

"The vibes I was getting was that he was going to choose hurling. He probably felt he has got more chances with the hurling team over the last few years than the football.

"Damien's best years have still to come. He's really only developing. He's a big guy. He grew up so fast. He was at the height of it at a young age in county finals with Castlehaven.

"He had a lot going on between hurling and football."

Walsh indicated last month in an interview that the decision to end the dual arrangement, in his case, came from him as he cited his experience after the disappointing All-Ireland hurling semi-final defeat to Tipperary.

"When I came off the field and into the dug-out I put my head down and said, 'It's not worth it'," he recalled.

"Jimmy (Barry-Murphy) came over and shook hands and I said that I was sorry, that it hadn't been good enough. We had played so well in the Munster Championship and then not to perform against Tipperary wasn't acceptable and wasn't good enough.

"To put in such an effort all year and then let yourself down on the big day with 70,000 people there and a huge support from Cork was very disappointing. My response to that was 'never again, I'm not putting myself in that position again',"

The departure of Walsh and Sheehan, who is with AFL club Carlton, are the biggest possible blows that Cork football could have to absorb, according to Tompkins.


"In my book Aidan and Ciaran were the two main factors why they won that All-Ireland in 2010," he said. "If they didn't arrive on the scene at that time I think Cork would be still waiting on that All-Ireland title. That is the type of impact they had. They are not easy to replace. You can't just say, 'Okay he's gone, we'll get another fella'. That's not the way it works.

"Ciaran struggled early on in the 2010 final but his head never dropped and he had a brilliant second half. He rallied the troops. It was the same with Aidan Walsh. His fielding that day was superb. He totally dominated the game."

Tompkins still feels there is potential in Cork if they maximise the resources available to them.

"They didn't get enough out of the players this year. There is still loads left in the likes of Daniel Goulding. We have only seen glimpses of what that man can do. Same with Colm O'Neill. We need the best players on the field all the time. When the match finished against Mayo we had that."

Meanwhile, Mark Landers is expected to be confirmed as part of the hurling management at tonight's county board meeting. Landers will move up from the minor management to replace Kieran Kingston who has stepped down due to work commitments.

The 1999 All-Ireland-winning captain will join manager Barry-Murphy and outgoing selectors Seanie McGrath and Johnny Crowley.

Irish Independent