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Offaly U-21 hurler Emmet Nolan.

Offaly U-21 hurler Emmet Nolan

Emmet Nolan: 'My body just couldn't take the strain'

By John Harrington

Leinster U-21 Hurling Final

Offaly v Dublin, O'Connor Park, 7.30 (TG4)

If Offaly U-21 hurler Emmet Nolan ever gets to deliver a pitch on Dragon’s Den, there’s a good chance he’ll get an investment.

Nolan is clearly passionate about the packaging company ‘Request It’ he has set up with his brother Brian who is based in China, and a chat about Wednesday’s Leinster U-21 Hurling Final against Dublin quickly veers in that direction.

It sounds like his fledgling business is off to a flier, but for a while it looked like that would be at the expense of his hurling career. Combining setting up a demanding business with playing hurling at the highest level is one way of putting yourself under serious strain, and Nolan found out the hard way before last Christmas that his body couldn’t take it.

He developed a nasty viral infection that absolutely floored him and ultimately forced him to break from hurling.

“The body couldn't take it,” he admits. "I broke out in a rash. I wasn't sleeping. I was dreading going to bed, I'd maybe sleep from half 6 in the morning until half 10, just from pure exhaustion and that's all I was getting. I tried a number of treatments with my doctor and eventually one actually worked for me thank God."

Offaly senior manager Eamonn Kelly gave him the time to make a full recovery and Nolan was eventually called back up to the senior panel for the latter stages of their Championship campaign. The demands of his fledgling business are unlikely to ease any time soon though, and he admits it will be difficult to combine it with hurling at inter-county level without continued support from management.

“Yeah, it depends on the management. Will they let you train up in Dublin during the week from Monday to Friday? You're travelling up and down and you could be travelling home for a gym session and it could take you the bones of five or six hours by the time you travel up and back.

“But if you get your gym session done in Dublin during these winter months, like, it takes an hour or two, you can enjoy your life...the big thing about it for me is that the thoughts of going training are worse than actually training.

“2 o'clock during the day, you have to leave Dublin at half 3, city centre traffic is mental, but Eamonn Kelly was very good. Monday nights, lads didn't have to travel home, they just met in Dublin, wherever they may be, and did their gyms sessions.

“He was very good with me. I rang him and told him I couldn't be part of the panel. He said he understood. He said get yourself right and get back on the '21s and we'll see where we go from there. He was very good in that way, yeah.”

Emmet Nolan in action against Carlow in the Leinster U-21 Semi-Final.
Emmet Nolan in action against Carlow in the Leinster U-21 Semi-Final.

It remains to be seen just what sort of senior inter-county career Nolan will be capable of having, but for now at least he’s very much one of the main men for the U-21 team that contests this evening’s Leinster Final against Dublin. Nolan has played in every line of the field for Offaly at various times, but looks like he has now found his natural home in the full-forward line where he has been racking up some big scores.

“This is my third year in Offaly. I started in the half-back line, made my debut against Tipperary at wing-back and then played midfield for the majority of last year. With my club I played full-forward last year and stayed going with the 21s (in the) inside forward line and that's where I'd hope to sort of get a position nailed down. That's where I want to be from now on, I want to nail down a position where that's where I go.”

Offaly wouldn’t have been widely tipped to go all the way in Leinster at the start of the year, but within the group they always believed they were genuine contenders. Kilkenny’s defeat to Westmeath earlier in the campaign blew the province wide open, and with home advantage against Dublin this evening the Midlanders sense a big opportunity.

“Yeah, high expectations from ourselves this year,” says Nolan. “There was a great structure put in place, the lads over us are very clued in, there's after been a good few minors coming through last year that have progressed, three or four of them.

“There's a squad of 32 players so everyone is going hell for leather in training, there's no letting up. Anybody can be dropped. Nobody has their position on the team. That's shown in in our training games, everybody just wants to play and that's it.

“Please God a big crowd will get out behind us. We've been working hard all year so hopefully the work will pay off next year.”

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