It was great to read that Ciaran Kilkenny has told Dublin football manager Jim Gavin that he wants to play hurling as well. For too long football managers have put dual players under pressure not to play hurling. Dublin hurling is in a very strong position at the moment and dual players have played a big part in that. It is essential that they be allowed continue to play hurling.
A few months ago I wrote to the County Chairman and Secretary of my concerns regarding dual players as follows:
A Winning Decade 2002 -2012, whither the next Decade?
The last decade – 2002 to 2012 has been Dublin’s best decade by far on the hurling fields.
- 4 Leinster minor titles 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012. –
- 2 All-Ireland minor runners up 2011, 2012
- 3 under 21 Leinster titles 2007, 2010, 2011
- All-Ireland under 21 finalists 2007, 2011.
- Senior League champions 2011
- Senior All –Ireland semi-finalists in 2011.
- 3 Walsh Cup titles 2003, 2011, 2013.
- All-Ireland College champions 2006
- Leinster Colleges title in 2007
- 3 Leinster juvenile college titles
- 2 Féile na nGael All-Ireland titles in 2007 and 2012.
The Dublin Co Board can take credit for much of this success story. It has invested heavily in the promotion of hurling. Coaching and Development is very strong in the county.GPO’s and club/ school coaches are better trained and are more enthusiastic.In 2012 Coaching and Games received €2.65m of which Dublin contributed €1m[38% of the total spend. [John Costello’s report to AGM 2012]. All Dublin GAA supporters can be proud of the commitment of the County Board officers to the promotion of hurling and football in the county.
As a result of these success stories it is fair to say that hurling is in a good place at the moment. There is massive growth in hurling across the county at club level and there is an exceptional goodwill towards the county teams. Damian Murphy in his report to the Juvenile AGM 2012 stated that there was a growth of 13.4% in the numbers participating in hurling. Since 2009 there has been a growth of 162 teams in the under 8 to under 16 age groups. This is phenomenal growth for hurling in Dublin.
It is essential now that this success story continues for the next decade. What does this mean? The Blue Wave Document sets a target of Dublin winning a senior and an under 21 hurling title every 5 years and a minor title every 3 years.This may sound idealistic but I believe it is possible.
A major stumbling block to Dublin reaching its hurling targets is the dual player problem. I notice in the Blue Wave Document Theme 5 sets out as its desired outcome that ‘from u16 minimise the number of dual players at ages 16/17. The selection of dual players will be decided by the welfare committee and team managers in consultation with the players’.
The 2012 minor hurling team had four dual players three of whom were in the top five on that team.Already these three players are on senior the football panel and their hurling future is in doubt. I fully accept that these young players can make up their own minds and I am led to believe that they want to play under 21 hurling this year. It is essential that they be accommodated to play and train with the under 21 hurling team. It is not enough to be released to play games but not to train with the team. Dublin have appeared in the last two All-Ireland minor finals and in the previous All-Ireland semi-final. Based on that fact they have the a real chance of winning an All-Ireland under 21 title in the next three years.
Football is the still dominant game in Dublin. There is a perception out there that Dublin football managers in the past picked outstanding hurlers on their football panels. Conal Keaney is a case in point. He was the best under 21 hurler in Leinster when they were were pipped by Wexford in an epic under 21 final in Portlaoise. His loss to Dublin hurling was immense and dispirited some hurlers. He is now back playing hurling but is not the player he could have been if he had continued hurling. Ciaran Kilkenny is a similar case now. He is an exceptional hurler and made his name as an under 14 hurler for his club when they won the All-Ireland Féile in 2007. His loss to Dublin hurling would be incalculable.
Dublin football has a greater pool of players available than the hurlers have. The loss of a star dual player will have a bigger impact on the hurlers. I suggest that if the current dual players discontinue hurling that Dublin will not win an All-Ireland title in the next five years. I also strongly believe that if all the dual players gave their first commitment to hurling that Dublin would win an All-Ireland final within five years.
If Dublin County Board is to reach its targets for hurling it needs to give it preferential treatment. In the ideal world we would not have dual players and I do see great merit in the aim of phasing out of dual players. I do also accept that it is not possible to play both senior hurling and football at the same time. One compromise solution and one that would maximise Dublin’s chances of winning national titles in both codes would be for the dual players to commit to each sport on alternate years.
Hurlers need to feel that they have the same respect as the footballers.Jim Gavin was quoted recently as saying that the dual players may play hurling this summer. It doesn’t help when a football manager decides if certain players will hurl or not. In an era when they GAA is promoting the value of respect it is not acceptable that a football manager offers a training job to the trainer of the hurlers without even consulting the hurling manager. Theme 5 of the Blue Wave Document rightly says that the selection of dual players will be decided by the welfare committee and team managers in consultation with the players. That doesn’t seem to have happened this year.
The challenge is great for the coming years to ensure the hurling continues to grow in Dublin. A national title is essential to sustain morale. The great Kevin Heffernan revived football nationwide in the 70’s. A Dublin All-Ireland title in hurling would be a massive boost to hurling not only in Dublin but in the thirty two counties for which Croke Park would be eternally grateful.
PS: Brian Mullins was asked recently in the Herald ‘Legends of the Ball series’ what was his biggest regret and his response was ‘I didn’t play much hurling as an adult and if I was to pick something I may have done differently that would be it.’