Irish Life announces four-year partnership with GAA Healthy Clubs. To date, GAA Healthy Clubs has engaged 300 clubs and with the sponsorship, they expect to see an additional 375 clubs join the growing movement by January 2024. Pictured at the announcement at Croke Park in Dublin is Limerick hurler William O’Donoghue.
Irish Life announces four-year partnership with GAA Healthy Clubs. To date, GAA Healthy Clubs has engaged 300 clubs and with the sponsorship, they expect to see an additional 375 clubs join the growing movement by January 2024. Pictured at the announcement at Croke Park in Dublin is Limerick hurler William O’Donoghue. 

O'Donoghue relishing Limerick's hectic hurling schedule


By John Harrington

Limerick hurler, William O'Donoghue, believes the GAA’s decision to condense the inter-county season into the first seven months of the year is a positive move for a variety of reasons.

It ensures a hectic programme of fixtures during the Allianz Hurling League and provincial championships, but O'Donoghue is adamant that more matches is exactly what players and supporters alike want.

“Yeah, whoever gets to the provincial finals it’s obviously a tough enough slog but I imagine all management have marked out blocks or phases,” he says.

“As a whole, isn’t it positive to have more games? If it wasn’t games, you’d be training three times a week for the same fixture. Supporters want to see games, players want to be involved in them and maybe it’s a positive thing that there’s that much games and there is more exposure and stuff like that.

“It’s a tough slog but under the old structure teams could have come back in November for a July championship. It’s what you make of it. It will obviously be tough and demanding - the round-robin is back and you saw how difficult it was for teams to win when they had three games on the bounce.

“I’m sure it will throw up all sorts of scenarios but it’s exciting, it’s brilliant and it’s what everyone wants, all the teams competing against one another and we’re going to see it.

“It’s also a platform where you’ve got a panel of 36 and you can put a lot of combinations together. It’s seven (weeks) out of nine if you get to a final, you are guaranteed five (league matches) and that over six or seven weeks is brilliant.

“It’s not like the same 15 are forced to go out and play every week, there’s going to be new combinations, you’ll play with new players and guys will get a chance. You are going to have time to find form or fall out of form, so a lot will happen in the games. It’s full on, but if we didn’t have those games we’d just be training anyway so it’s brilliant exposure.”

William O'Donoghue celebrates with Limerick manager John Kiely after victory over Cork in the 2021 All-Ireland SHC Final. 
William O'Donoghue celebrates with Limerick manager John Kiely after victory over Cork in the 2021 All-Ireland SHC Final. 

The other obvious benefit O'Donoghue sees in running off the entire inter-county championship programme before the end of July is that the club championships now have more room to breathe with the advent of the split season.

“It was fantastic to have that split season, and when you're back, you're back,” said O'Donoghue.

“It's very difficult for club players in the old seasons where you'd have to train in January for matches in April, and then you have time off, and then have to be ready at a click of a finger if your inter-county team gets knocked out.

“Whereas now guys have a defined season where they know they are going to be training. They probably have more time for social stuff like holidays if they need to plan them. I think it's win-win for everyone. There's a lot more balance and enjoyment.”

O'Donoghue hopes to be in action for Limerick in Sunday’s Munster Cup semi-final against Kerry.

The Kingdom shocked Tipperary in the quarter-final thanks in no small part to the performance of Limerick native Paudie Ahern who scored three points.

Kileedy club-man Ahern is one of three Limerick men on the Kerry panel along with Mungret St. Paul’s duo Louis Dee and Niall Mulcahy, and O'Donoghue believes it’s a positive they’re doing their bit to develop Kerry hurling.

“He’d be a bit younger than me,” says O'Donoghue of Ahern. “I know he hurled with a good few of the lads, Kyle (Hayes) and fellas like that. I’d know him from the lads.

“Niall Mulcahy from Mungret is on the panel and their goalie as well was on the Limerick U21 panel. It’s fantastic to see guys putting themselves forward and developing if they are eligible to play with Kerry and they’re obviously bringing a lot to that set-up too so fair play to them.”