Niall Cahalane is no stranger to the tension that comes with involvement on the big day, having starred for Cork and Castlehaven at the very highest level through the ‘80s and ‘90s, and thrown in some hurling with Blackrock for a spell too writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
There is a good chance though that one of the toughest operators that ever laced a pair of boots will be more nervous travelling to Thurles tomorrow, than he ever was prior to an All-Ireland. With both a son and daughter playing for the Rebels in senior league finals, one guesses he might well be in bits.
Damien is involved with the hurlers as they look to gain their first national title since Jimmy Barry-Murphy returned as manager for the 2012 season.
As has become customary, the Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 1 decider acts as double-header and the clan will be in their seats nice and early as Méabh marks her first campaign as a senior inter-county player, hopefully in style against Galway (1.30pm).
“It will be a special day” says Méabh. “All the family will be able to make the two games, and with the excitement of the two of us playing, hopefully it will be an enjoyable day. Hopefully we’ll be able to come out with two wins.
“It’s nice to have the game in Thurles before the hurling; it’s great exposure for the camogie. Galway will be our biggest challenge yet. I suppose after their All-Ireland win, we didn’t hear much from them last year so this year they’ll want to prove a point again. It’ll be tough but we’re looking forward to it at the same time.”
It has been a breakthrough season for the recently-turned 19-year-old, and with success having eluded her right through the underage ranks with Cork, the hunger is voracious in her first year with the seniors. She did garner a Division 2 medal with the intermediates last year and it would be nice to put that double, with a family double.
“I’m enjoying it this year. Last year, with the Leaving Cert, I couldn’t train as much as I would have liked. It’s a privilege to be training with the likes of Gemma O’Connor, Orla Cotter, Briege Corkery. They’re very encouraging to the young players. I wouldn’t be intimidated by them.
“Ashling Thompson is a great captain as well. She is a great leader and is very approachable. She is playing brilliant stuff throughout the League. I’m really enjoying it at the moment and I’m kind of relaxed about it. I find it exciting and I suppose you get more confident with every game.”
Like her brother, Cahalane is a dual star herself. Damien decided not to make himself available to Cork’s senior footballers this year as the demands took their toll but Méabh has broken into the ladies football squad and was on the line as Eamonn Ryan’s all-conquering crew beat Kerry in the league semi-final in Drumcollogher.
A quick bite followed before a hasty road trip back to Cork to play a camogie league game with St Finbarr’s. Throw in club football with Éire Óg, lining out with UCC in both codes, part-time work and the first year commerce and French exams that began on Monday and you have one busy calendar.
“This year I’m on eight teams altogether between college, club, U21 county, senior inter-county. It’s tough to keep it all going; you’d nearly be out every night of the week.
“But the main thing is to look after yourself when you can, rest when you can. That’s very important. Rena (Buckley) and Briege (Corkery) have been doing it so long you can ask them for advice and it’s nice to have that.”
And there will be advice from the father too.
“He wouldn’t talk much before a game. You’d know alright afterwards if you were after having a bad game! He has been a great example. He just says the best way to go is as hard as you can for as long as you can.”
So far, so good.