After watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic – before his three-match ban – rack up 26 goals for Man Utd, KIERAN McCARTHY decided to look at several local GAA men who are dispelling the theory that age catches up with everyone
‘YOU’LL be long enough sitting in your armchair so play on for as long as you can’ – that’s the advice from Gabriel Rangers’ stalwart Pat Nolan who turns 46 this summer.
By then Gabriels will be in the throes of the club’s county IFC campaign and Nolan – who played his first junior championship game in 1989 when he was 17 – is already back training ahead of a big year for the reigning Cork JAFC champs.
It would be very easy for Nolan to hang up his boots. He has nothing left to prove on the football field; his legend is assured. But he keeps coming back for more, making that regular trip from his home in Lombardstown near Mallow to his homeland in Schull; it’s 84 miles each way.
‘I can’t understand why fellas give up, to be honest. I know everyone has their reason but you’ll be long enough sat at home so you may as well make the most of it while you can,’ Nolan said.
‘A big thing for me is that I still like playing, I still get a lot of enjoyment from it and there still seems to be a role for me too.
‘Maybe it’s different with bigger clubs who have bigger numbers and have players in line to take over when fellas get older … but it’s different with smaller clubs.
‘As well as that I like going back home and meeting fellas, keeping that connection with where I’m from.’
Goleen’s John Cullinane is also coming back for more this season. In July this living legend of Goleen GAA, the man-of-the-match from last season’s Cork JCFC final, turns 46 – but he has vowed to carry on playing for another year.
Speaking at the West Cork Sports Star Awards in January, the ever-green Cullinane said, ‘Guaranteed this year I’ll play, if I stay injury free.’
And he’s been true to his word, lining out against Castlehaven and Tadhg MacCarthaigh in Carbery-Beara JAFL Division 2, and with Goleen drawing Deel in round one of the Cork JBFC, Cullinane will be eager to make his presence felt again this year.
He made his debut for Goleen over 30 years ago and there are more chapters to be written in his story still.
His advice to any of GAA’s elder statesmen who are edging closer to the finishing line is this: ‘Don’t give up at all if you can help it, we’ll be long enough not playing and not able to play. I’m 45, I’ll be 46 in July, and what I’ve learned is that you have to put in the effort, that’s basically it.’
Anthony Quinn is expected to feature again for St Mary’s this season, the recently turned 44-year-old was between the posts when the club won the South West JBHC final last year and is now a selector for the junior A football team. He was a mainstay in the footballers’ full-back line-up until recently and he was part of the Mary’s panel that won the 2014 South West JAFC title. This season Quinn will probably play junior 4 football but he could also feature in goal for Mary’s junior A hurlers. He has been described as the ‘consummate club man’, very fitting and apt.
Former Cork footballer Micheál Ó Croinín is another example that age is just a number as he continues to lead the line for Naomh Ábán. The classy forward turned 39 last December and the early signs this season are that his boots are still sprinkled with stardust and lethal in front of the posts; in the recent league defeat to St Michael’s, we’re informed that he kicked ‘either 1-3 or 1-4’, both are fine hauls at any time of the season.
‘Micheál is as good as any 19-year-old,’ we were told, and we nodded in agreement. Class, they say, really is permanent.
Casting our net far and wide, we turned to the all-watching Twittersphere to track down some more experienced local GAA folk – and we weren’t disappointed.
St James’ 2005 county junior B winning captain Damien Dooley (41) played a junior hurling challenge game against Bandon last week and he’s fighting for a place on the team this year.
Dohenys can boast several players of experience in their ranks, including Mick Farr (41) and Fachtna McCarthy (40) who both played junior with the club recently, and both men’s involvement stretches back to the 1990s as they picked up county junior (1993) and intermediate (1995) medals. Both men are also actively involved in the club off the playing field too, with Mick and Fachtna on the executive committee, and Fachtna also the club’s assistant treasurer. Timmy O’Donovan, who turns 39 this year, will be in the mix for the Doheny junior footballers.
Then there’s Noel Collins (38), who was named Doheny Club Player of the Year last season, and this dual player is renowned for his dedication to the club. He was a rock in defence for Doheny’s senior footballers and junior hurlers in 2016, and he’s back for more again this year. And we were told not to forget Alan Murray (39) either; he’s played in the league this year and will be involved as the season goes on.
Another who came across our radar is Kilbrittain’s Owen Sexton (41), the former Cork footballer and senior selector who was part of the Black and Amber set-up that won the county junior B title last October. That was Sexton’s third title at that grade, he was a minor in the 1992 success when he played wing back and then he captained the team in 2009, and he was there again last year. With Kilbrittain back up to junior A this year, we’re likely to see more of him this year, surely?
Former Clare senior footballer Noel Griffin (39) is another Kilbrittain stalwart, who leads by example on and off the field, and last year his performances won him a place on the 2016 Carbery Junior All-Star Football team at full forward.
Back in 2015, Vincent Collins, then 53, showed that he was willing to answer his club’s call when he lined out for Clann na nGael in the junior B championship and a few league games. Once a clubman, always a clubman, and he’s there if needed to be called on again.
One man that is after hanging up his boots is Muintir Bhaire’s Frankie Arundel, the new club chairman confirmed to us on Tuesday that he has retired – but what a legacy he leaves.
Of course, there are more players then we just listed here, and we haven’t been ageist to those who are younger than 38, far from it, so if you know any player – male or female – that’s going strong at the far end of the playing spectrum at any point of the season, let us know ([email protected]).
Until then, play on.