Loughmore-Castleiney's hectic schedule continues
By Cian O’Connell
Crucial matches continue to arrive thick and fast for Loughmore-Castleiney.
Firmly established as one of the most respected dual clubs in the land, Loughmore-Castleiney have already qualified for the Tipperary SHC final against Kiladangan on Sunday, September 19.
This Saturday, though, focus shifts to a county football semi-final in Boherlahan ensuring Loughmore-Castleiney’s schedule remains packed.
Around a decade ago Loughmore-Castleiney opted to install the same management and backroom in charge of both codes.
Loughmore-Castleiney Chairman Eugene Stapleton is adamant that it was a successful call with Frankie McGrath’s splendid work earning respect in 2020.
“It is something we did about 10 years back. It was impossible to manage with two different managers because you were basically dealing with the same group of players,” Stapleton explains.
“Bar the two goalies Shane Hennessy and David Kennedy, nearly all of the outfield players on any given weekend you could have 14 of the same. Normally you'd have 12 or 13.”
Being competitive in hurling and football has always been part of the Loughmore-Castleiney story according to Stapleton.
“We went senior in hurling in 1980,” Stapleton says. “We had been predominantly a football club, but when we went senior in 1980 the two have just gone hand in hand.
“All of the players would be used to it because a lot of them won doubles at Under 12, minor, and Under 21 level. We have always managed to stay senior in hurling since 1980.
“There is no doubt that this is a very good crop. A lot of them won county finals at minor and Under 21 in hurling and football.”
With McGrath overseeing affairs Loughmore-Castleiney’s training approach is tailored for the respective week.
“We have the same backroom,” Stapleton states. “Eamonn Sweeney would do a good bit of the coaching in the hurling. In the football Murtagh Brennan, who is the physical trainer for both hurling and football, he concentrates a bit more on the football coaching side of things. He would have a background in that.
“It works better. If you have two different managers one wants to play hurling, the other wants to play football.
“Rightly so, they would be looking after their own end of things. When you have the same management it works a lot better.
“We were doing football training on Tuesday night for Saturday, but we started off with hurling drills. We did the warm-up with the hurleys.”
That, simply, is the way it is in Loughmore-Castleiney, who enjoyed a productive outing at Semple Stadium when defeating Nenagh Eire Og at the penultimate stage of the hurling on Saturday. “We would mix and match more so before a football game,” Stapleton remarks.
“For the few weeks we played in the hurling we didn't touch a football. In fairness to Nenagh they started without Hugh Moloney and lost two of their best defenders after 20 minutes.
“They really were playing the match without three of their first backs which would put a strain on any team. Things didn't go right for them, they hit wides they normally wouldn't hit. If we played Nenagh next weekend there certainly wouldn't be 10 points in it.”
So much has altered due to the Covid 19 pandemic which means some of the excitement has been reduced in recent weeks.
“It is curtailed this year with people not being able to go to the matches and with the pubs closed,” Stapleton acknowledges.
“So there isn't a lot of movement of people around chatting about the matches. It is definitely different than other years. Normally there would be great excitement with the kids in school going to the matches. It is different this year, but it is the same for every club.
“It is week on week, the hurling final will be our 11th weekend on the trot. It is a distraction from the hurling this week. You have to look at it from a positive point of view and we will have a lead into the hurling from Sunday morning onwards.”
Considering the volume of high quality games being provided the Loughmore-Castleiney players just embrace the next challenge.
“Exactly, it keeps the thing fresh,” Stapleton replies. “The big thing this year is that we have all our county players training the whole summer.
“We have three lads on the football panel and three on the hurling. It makes for better training and also the county players aren't coming back after a very hard season with Tipp. They are a lot fresher than they would be if we were playing matches in October or November.”
The defined club season has aided the process according to Stapleton, who is used to seeing Loughmore-Castleiney participate in key Championship encounters in winter.
“We have played midweek games under lights in October and playing Sunday - Wednesday – Sunday,” Stapleton recalls.
“It can be difficult. I'd say the way things turned out and obviously they weren't meant to be, but it seems to have been a success in every county. Clubs have their players and clubs won't want to give that up going forward.”
In his fifth year as chairman Stapleton is enjoying Loughmore-Castleiney’s latest adventure. “You get lots of help,” Stapleton comments.
“Anybody involved in the club helps out, the Chairman is no different than anyone else. It is just a name that goes after your name at meetings, we have great volunteers in the parish.
“It would be fabulous if we could get into the football final, but Moyle Rovers are predominantly a football club, and will take an awful lot of beating.”
Loughmore-Castleiney, though, remain a most durable outfit too.