There’s been a lot of talk of late, in foreign counties, about the future of the mythologised ‘dual player’.
Cork’s Aidan Walsh decided to side with the hurl a couple of weeks ago, while Clare’s Podge Collins spoke out recently about his own dual dilemma.
At inter-county level it’s an undoubtedly big ask to play competitively in both codes during seasons which run concurrently and regularly overlap.
In many ways it’s the voices outside the mind that kick-start most of the head-scratching and tough decision making for dual players though. Managers on both sides of the fence want all of you, all the time - neither wants what could be perceived as the leftovers.
Sean O’Mahony’s Ronan Byrne has an understanding of the situation which is rare for up this neck of the woods.
Byrne hurls for Knockbridge and Louth while also kicking a size five O’Neills ball for the O’Mahony’s. It can be a dizzying and time-straining year for him.
“At times it can be very demanding” agrees the 28-year-old, “but I’m able to juggle both. I do my winter training with the Louth hurlers and try to make myself available for league matches if there are no clashes.
“But the club (Sean O’Mahony’s) co-operates fully and understands that hurling is my first choice. It makes things a lot easier when you get success on both fields and this season has been particularly enjoyable winning both football and hurling championships.”
Although he could be classed as a ‘blow-in’, Byrne has never felt anything but at home while wearing the Green and Gold. And this year’s success has been extra special.
“Personally the Sean’s means a lot. I transferred eleven years ago and have always been made feel as one of their own. I’m delighted to be able to feel I have given something back to the club in winning the championship, as there are a lot of men and women who do a lot of work that goes unnoticed.”
Surely though there must be times when his choice of code grates slightly with the Point Road side?
“Hurling has always been my first love and from day one they always respected that and never pressured me into making any decisions,” states Byrne firmly. “If there was a game the night before or any clash, and for that I’m very thankful to all the managers that I have played under and never has it become an issue.”
When the season ends and Christmas descends, Byrne will no doubt take the time to reflect on a wonderful year. If the club’s players were to toast it and remember key moments, most will no doubt point to knife-edge championship clashes and those all-important semi finals with St Joseph’s.
However, as is the way of man, Byrne takes a different approach. A barely remembered league match with O’Connell’s sticks out in his mind as the most vital moment for Sean O’Mahony’s this year.
“The defining moment for me was against the O’Connell’s at home,” stated the Knockbridge hurler. “We where ten points down, lost Conor Crawley to a black card, John O’Brien and Keith McLaughlin both to injury and came back to draw and could have won it only for a late free for O’Connell’s.
“That second half performance made us all realise what potential we had if we played for 60 minutes. I knew then that the championship was within our ability to win.”
Still, he’s long enough in the tooth to know those semi final games with the Joes were huge. Having the chance to go back again, and again, to right the wrongs is something you rarely get in competitive sport.
“You learn from your mistakes and game time is excellent preparation to correct those errors and have a look back at your game plan,” muses Byrne. “That’s why I think the Joes saga stood to us and helped us win the championship as each game was a carbon copy - each team had cut out the deficit when we’ve gone ahead and we’ve then dug deep as a squad and ground out the results we needed.”
The management duo of Brendan Nordon and Cathal O’Rourke have reinvigorated Sean O’Mahony’s this year. Football is a simple game that can become cluttered with needless noise. A common sense approach and a unity of purpose has been key in 2014.
“Well the championship was always our main ambition, to get back senior. There is no real secret - Brendan and Cathal gave us belief in ourselves. They broke the game down and each player has a specific job to do and we trust in our system and trust each other to do that.”
Now in his late twenties, Byrne has a level of experience which has been vital to the club during their maiden provincial campaign. His years playing intercounty hurling with the Wee County are a major asset, but he admits that playing regularly at Clan Na Gael Park this year has been of huge importance.
“We’re enjoying playing in Clans while we are winning that’s for sure,” adds the full back, with a hint of apprehension. “I have played a lot matches there over the years and maybe that has been a factor in why we have progressed.”
Another win there on Sunday lands them in the final - a fantastic achievement for the club. It’ll also see them get home advantage once more. However it’ll be played in Drogheda instead - not that that’ll be playing on their minds right now.