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Conor Ryan of Cratloe in action against Ambrose Donovan of Dr. Crokes during their Munster club football final at The Gaelic Grounds. Photograph by John Kelly

Cratloe – a football club that dabbles in hurling?

IN the aftermath of Cratloe’s county semi-final win over Éire Óg, Óige Murphy issued a few words to the media that were steeped in honesty, albeit somewhat eyebrow-raising.

“I suppose we’re known as a hurling team, who kind of dabble in the football,” the Cratloe wing-back said in the middle of the pitch in Clarecastle on Sunday, November 3. Just over a month later, that statement could be justifiably revised.

Now that Cratloe have established themselves as a football club that dabbles in a bit of hurling, the demands on their most capable dual players will increase exponentially.

If the Clare senior football team is to have a realistic chance of emerging from Division 4, they need the input of players such as Cathal McInerney, Conor Ryan, Liam Markham, Podge and Seán Collins.

All of them have played football for Clare from U-14 to U-21 levels and, in fact, the latter three have already played inter-county senior football.

Let’s not suggest that committing to playing both codes would not be hugely demanding. It would definitely place a strain on all the possible dual players involved but if the Clare football team is to represent what is best about football in the county, it will need some of the Cratloe dual men on board.

Nobody involved in the Clare senior football set-up will say this on the record but, in the short-term, achieving league progress is much more important than winning a game or two in the championship.

If Clare are promoted in 2014, it would be a huge boost to the county and in a couple of years, perhaps they might make some championship progress.

Therefore, as a starting point, if Colm Collins has access to dual players for the upcoming league campaign, it would be a step forward. Following the year that the Clare hurlers had in 2013, it would be unrealistic to expect a dual player to equally commit to the football panel. However, if they are available to help Clare out of Division 4, they would be doing the sport in this county a huge service.

Of course, if Clare were to win promotion, with the help of some of those aforementioned dual players, they would find it hard to walk away for the footballers’ Munster championship opener against Waterford. That’s not a concern now though. Achieving promotion in the league is.

Clare have already been boosted by the addition of Shane Hickey, Shane Brennan and Darren O’Neill to their current training panel, although Kilrush’s John Hayes has opted not to commit for 2013.

With the current management in on a three-year term, it could mark the end of the Kilrush man’s inter-county career, which would be a big blow to Clare. Hayes has never given less than 100% when wearing the county jersey.

This week, however, Cratloe are the talk of the county, having proven they are as much a football club as a hurling one. If their players are to wear a county football jersey next season, the respective county management teams will have to be in near constant communication to ensure their players are not pulled and dragged between the two.

If any group of players are capable of serving two masters, as best they can, the Cratloe boys have the mentality and ambition to deliver on both fronts.

Peter O’Connell

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