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03rd Aug 2022

“That’s sport, it comes with a government warning” – Just another week in the Cahalane household

Niall McIntyre

Jack Cahalane was watching his sister Gráinne’s camogie match recently when he remarked to his dad Niall that she had a first touch like Sean Finn’s.

Gráinne is the only one of the six Cahalane children who doesn’t play for Cork.

She played underage alright, as is family tradition, and dad Niall says she could even be the best of them, but she doesn’t play for the county because she wants a life outside of the GAA.

“Maybe she has the right idea,” Niall says with a laugh. 

But the others have a different idea.

The extent to which they represent Cork, for one family, in all ages and grades and codes, is quite frankly ridiculous. It’s almost beyond belief.

These days you will do well to see a Cork team that doesn’t have a Cahalane on it and, though it may sound awful like it, that’s not just a figure of speech. It’s the God’s honest truth.

We’ll start with Damien because he’s the oldest. He’s a former Cork senior dual player who now plays full-time, full back for the hurlers. Next up is Conor who, at the moment, is on and off the senior hurling team. Then there’s Jack, a dual star who won All-Irelands in both codes at under-21/20 level in 2021 and, to level up with the big boys, made his debut for the senior footballers in the qualifiers this year.

Of the sisters, Meabh is first up because she will be corner back this weekend, when Cork take on Kilkenny in the All-Ireland senior camogie final. She was also on the county senior football team this year but, almost unbelievably, the best could be yet to come. Orlaith’s the youngest of the clan but she’s definitely following footsteps.

She was part of the Cork minor camogie team that won the All-Ireland earlier this year and, when she plays in the minor football final against Galway tonight, she will be hoping to make a double of it.

Then on Sunday, and even at just 17 years of age, she will be on the bench in the big one at Croke Park. And if the quarter final is anything to go on then she will be one of Matthew Twomey and Davy Fitzgerald’s first subs on.

“Jesus, do you know what, I don’t know do you ever get used to them,” Niall says when asked if the novelty of All-Ireland finals ever wears off.

But it’s not all rainbows and roses. Every parent talks about the difficulties of watching their own and though it may sound like a cliche, Niall knows it’s not because he knows it too well. He’s been there for the droppings, he’s heard the abuse and he’s seen the heart-ache that follows the losses.

“That’s sport. It comes with a government warning.

“There are defeats and teams to be picked and, maybe, an odd person not making the team. And somebody else winning and somebody else losing so you’d have to be fierce careful which room you go into in our house.

“And you’d have to be fierce careful what type of a face you’ve on you in different mornings.”

Some people get it from their father some get it from their mother but the Cahalanes were never going to escape it because they get it from both. Niall won All-Irelands at every grade as a Cork footballer and his wife Ailish is a brother of John Cleary, Niall’s former team-mate and Cork’s current football manager.

“They get the pace from the mother’s side. I wouldn’t be known for my pace now. She’s a lot cooler than I am too. I’d be looking at the glass half empty too much. But they’ve had a hurley or a football nearly tied to them since they were very young. And all our weekends have revolved around going to matches since they were in push-chairs. And I would have played with the club up to 40, so Damien and Conor and Gráinne and Meabh would have been going to those games as little toddlers.

“It’s marvellous that they’re all involved but is it enjoyable for mammy and daddy? Probably really not. There’s so much pressure and it’s difficult to get that enjoyment out of it when you’ve people involved.

“I find it awful difficult watching games.

“I’d more or less go away on my own if I could at all. You can’t at the bigger games but I like toddling away on my own and if I want to stomp the ground on my own I can.

“For what ’tis worth I’d be trying to give my bit of advice but I’d say I’d be better off saying nothing. These games have changed so much. The whole thing has gone very scientific now compared to my time.

“At times it’s difficult to sit in the crowd, the abuse that’s given to players at games and like, in my time, you could make ten mistakes in a game and it wouldn’t be picked up on and now a half a mistake and it’s analysed ’til the better end. It’s analysed too much now but saying that, you wouldn’t have to be the greatest analyst to pick up the mistakes we were making in our day.

“I can remember there recently, during the lockdown there, they were looking back at some of the finals I would have played in and Jack was rolling around on the floor laughing at some of the mistakes we were making!

“Of course you’re proud of them all. It’s brilliant to see but the most important thing is that they’re enjoying it. And I think they are. They wouldn’t be doing it if they weren’t.”

An All-Ireland final tonight. Another one Sunday. Another week in the Cahalane house-hold.


The Cork minor footballers won, Orlaith scored 0-3 from play from full forward and for her, the second leg of the elusive treble is up.