Whelan relishing new hurling manager role

by James Hendicott

LONG TIME Castleknock man Damian Whelan will take charge of the Somerton club’s hurling panel for the 2017 season with the outstanding 2016 championship successes of the club’s footballers still ringing in the ears, he has high hopes for his new charges.
Whelan paid tribute to his predecessors after being appointed last week, telling GazetteSport “it might be cheesy, but I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants,” before referencing a string of club hurling men who have propelled Castleknock forward during its short history.
The club are currently in the senior B championship and the second division of Dublin league hurling with promotion on both fronts the target.
Whelan has co-opted James Donoghue (“a great young coach”) and selector John Carey to his team, saying of the latter “he has just moved back to the area, but is a former Erin’s Isle man of many years and is a great addition” and pointed to long term plans and fitness goals as his key areas.
“We have four of five on the hurling panel who play both codes and, of course, we take a lesson or two from what the footballers have done. Their fitness was a big thing, and we’ll be upping that a little bit, and already have sessions going,” he said.
“In the long term, you need to be playing the best regularly to really compete with them. As a GAA man, the championship always comes first but we need to look at the league, too.
“If we want to progress in the championship, we need to do well in both areas.
“The senior B is going to be tough this year, though. Lucan Sarsfields, who are a huge club, have just come down to senior B, and Ballinteer [St John’s] are another big one.”
Castleknock are a strong, young team, however, and are developing both on the pitch and their own facilities.
Somerton – primarily pitches at present – will shortly be added to with a clubhouse, which is out to tender, while a new housing estate of 600 properties is on the way around the corner. The senior sides are seeing growing success and the youth setups mean a conveyer belt of young talent.
“Ten to 12 of our panel – half the team – are Under-21,” Whelan says. “We’ve got a few club legends still hanging around and doing a great job, but it’s a young team, and we’ve added two or three more from last year’s minor team.
“There are more coming in the minors, the Under-16s and the Under-15s. The latter are a particularly strong age group.”
Whelan should know. With his three children all involved at Castleknock – Luke and Aoife play club level, while Caoimhe is also involved in this season’s Dublin minor side – Whelan takes the time to thank his wife Martha for her support, as well as the club for putting its faith in him.
“It’s a great honour,” he concludes. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

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