Dublin hurling: Can the small ball ever thrive in the capital in the shadow of gaelic football? | GAA News | Sky Sports

2022-06-25 06:29:21 By : Ms. Bella Liu

A high-profile Dublin hurler throwing his lot in with the footballers is nothing new.

Before Eoghan O'Donnell there was Mark Schutte, Tomás Brady and Conal Keaney. And countless others who never made it as far as the senior intercounty hurling before committing to the big ball.

Con O'Callaghan, Ciarán Kilkenny and Cormac Costello all raised green flags in last weekend's Leinster Football Championship final and the Dubs picked apart Kildare. A twist of fate would have ensured the trio were instead strutting their stuff on the hurling fields this summer.

It is unclear what O'Donnell's decision to link up with Dessie Farrell's panel will mean for his involvement with the hurlers going forward. But the attraction is clear for both parties.

"I love playing for Whitehall at the end of the year, it's such a release. I try my hand as a very makeshift forward for the club so it's a completely different experience," O'Donnell modestly stated when asked in February about his exploits on the football field.

"You're not chasing someone around for 70 minutes. You can actually try to play some sort of exciting style.

"[But] hurling is just so competitive at the moment, and it's such a fast game, that I don't think there's any sport in the world that's like it at the moment."

While football was cast as an innocent pastime, ultimately the carrot of competing for the Sam Maguire Cup year-on-year could prove great, if the Whitehall Colmcille man is faced with a choice next winter.

"When some people talk about Dublin hurling, they write off the team because the likes of Ciarán Kilkenny and Con O'Callaghan have chosen football," Dublin football legend and former selector with the county's hurlers, Mickey Whelan wrote in his autobiography this year.

"'But I still think there are more than enough hurlers in Dublin to win an All- Ireland title. The talent is undoubtedly there.

"We just need to get them in the right mould and get them to believe in themselves."

But how sustainable is a supply chain where many of the best players are plucked for another sport?

Away from the county's flagship team, Dublin hurling has been steady progress made in recent years. Between club, schools and intercounty minor and U21/U20 teams, results continue to flow.

But there is often a sense that the appeal of football may lurk around the corner.

Con O'Callaghan was key as Cuala stormed to back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2017 and 2018.

The Dubs reached the 2020 All-Ireland U20 Hurling Championship final. Arguably the standout player from that team kicked two points against Kildare last week from corner-back. It now appears Lee Gannon's future rests firmly with the footballers.

Even going back to the breakthrough success at schools level, when an amalgamated Dublin Colleges team claimed the All-Ireland title in 2006, two members of that side, Diarmuid Connolly and Jonny Cooper, went on to become mainstays of the football team for years to follow.

Given the club structures in the capital, the conveyor belt will continue to produce talented dual players.

With the days of the intercounty dual player now over, many will be faced with a choice.

Dublin are not moving away from gaelic football's top table any time soon. And that lure will remain for those faced with a decision.

From a hurling perspective, they need to offer a viable alternative to compete for the county's multi-talented stars. And that will only happen when the team gets back to winning Leinster titles and competing for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Until that point, there will be more instances of the top hurlers being swayed by the pursuit of Sam in the coming years.