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06th Jan 2022

39 going on 29 – How Naas captain Eamonn Callaghan used lockdown to get his body championship ready

Lee Costello

“I wasn’t breaking down with the long summer or later on and I just kept the same routine before every game.”

Naas is clearly a very special place – the way they ended a 31-year wait for championship glory, how they progressed all the way to a Leinster final, and how they did it all from the semi-final stage without even having a manager, proves that.

However, there is also a secret fountain of youth hidden somewhere in this town of Kildare, and whether he admits it or not, 39-year-old Eamonn Callaghan is drinking it by the bucket load.

It’s the only thing we normal folk can tell ourselves so that we feel better about the fact that the Naas captain is currently performing at these ridiculous fitness levels.

The former Kildare star didn’t give up on his dream of winning a championship with his club and now they have done just that, he is taking Leinster in his stride and preparing diligently for each game.

“It’s been pretty much every two weeks for every game we’ve had since the Kildare championship, so after that Shelmaliers game, we had a three-week break and we were able to have a down-week that Christmas week really.

“That was good to have because we’ve played a lot and it was good timing to give us a bit of time to do a bit of shopping and just to take a bit of a breather and then getting back into it straight away.

“I wouldn’t say I’m as fit as I’ve ever been but the main thing is yeah, I’m injury free, that’s one thing I’d look into an awful lot to try and stay on top of.

“With the lockdown last year, we missed the team pre-season so I was able to do my training on my own and I think that kind of helped me throughout the year.

“I wasn’t breaking down with the long summer or later on and I just kept the same routine before every game, and I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t had any bumps or knocks along the way.”

How Naas have coped without a manager since the quarter-final stage of the club championship.

The Kildare champions are in a hugely unusual situation, whereby their manager left them before the club semi-final, and they have been pretty much self-sufficient since then.

Eoin Doyle has stepped up to the plate as player-manager, but with Callaghan’s vast experience and knowledge, it only makes sense that he also plays a key role.

“Eoin Doyle is the manager, I’m just the captain. I would help out as much as I can but he has really taken the reins on it.

“He has help from a few other lads from the club as well who have been involved, there’s three or four of them who have been helping out at the training sessions and on match-day.

“When we went down that route, we thought it would just be a short-term gig preparing for a couple of matches, but then we won the semi-final and the final.

“We didn’t think we’d be still going over Christmas and into the new year but it’s great, it’s been great. Eoin has put a huge amount of time into it away from the football pitch to prepare us as professionally as we ever have been and he’s an unbelievable character as well.

“He has great respect amongst the players and while I’m sure it’s taken a lot out of him, he certainly hasn’t shown it on the pitch either.”

Naas hurlers are also having a successful season and Callaghan credits the commitment that their dual players have to make.

“The hurlers have won the last two in Kildare as well – similar to ourselves, they’ve had good underage teams coming through and they’ve a Leinster final to look forward to now as well.

“It’s unbelievable to have two teams still going, it’s been every second week and that’s great for the town and great for the club.

“We’ve two dual players this year – James Burke and Brian Byrne. They have been playing the last couple of years with us, Brian has been there for a long time.

“They play county hurling for Kildare as well, so they’re gone a lot of the year anyway with the Kildare hurlers and when they come back then, they have to mix between the hurlers and footballers.

“But to their credit, they’re always there with us, they’d be at training sessions, showing their support. It can’t be easy for them to double up, especially when it comes to the championship when you’ve a game every week, but they manage themselves very well, they’re very professional and they know how to keep themselves in shape.”

Naas will play Kilmacud Crokes this Saturday in the Leinster final on RTE 2 at 5pm.

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