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O'Mullan glee as Saffrons' CJ McGourty opts for hurling

By Declan Bogue

Published 04/12/2015

Antrim's CJ McGourty
Antrim's CJ McGourty

CJ McGourty will not be available to the Saffrons' football joint-management team of Frankie Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams as they gear up for the 2016 campaign.

Instead, he has accepted a call from new hurling boss PJ O'Mullan and intends to concentrate solely on the small ball code, having been named in the panel for the Walsh Cup, the upcoming pre-season warm-up competition.

The 2012 All-Ireland club winning manager informed the Belfast Telegraph: "He has declared with the hurlers.

"He is coming on board with the hurlers and we have been very impressed with him so far."

McGourty has always been a gifted hurler for his club, St Gall's, and St Mary's College. Operating as a creative force in the half-back line, he plays a different role in hurling than in football. Already, his abilities have not gone unnoticed by his new management.

"We had him in a trial game," revealed O'Mullan.

"He was playing at the back and he slotted in seamlessly. He is just a talented player and when you are sitting down to pick who your best players are, he is one of them.

"We called him and asked him if he would be interested to come on board and work with us and we are delighted. It's up to him to make the required commitment and we will certainly be working with him in time to make him a better player. But he is good enough, and that's the most important thing for us."

This will have come as a major blow to the football joint-management ticket of Fitzsimons and Adams. At the start of last season, Fitzsimons even named McGourty as his captain for a Dr McKenna Cup game.

However, relationships were said to have strained throughout the season and when CJ, his brother Kieran and Conor Burke played a hurling game for St Gall's the night before the football qualifier match against Laois, Fitzsimons dropped the trio.

Asked if he was concerned about McGourty's past history of dropping off panels, O'Mullan answered: "I have to take everything at face value and work out people as we go along. I have never worked with CJ before.

"As it stands at the minute, he is on board and fully committed and I am happy enough with that."

Elsewhere on the Walsh Cup panel, there was an expected recall for the 2010 All-Star nominee Liam Watson, while players from Cushendall and Creggan are unavailable due to club All-Ireland commitments.

Given that this panel is merely for the Walsh Cup, O'Mullan insists he will be keeping the panel open all year in order to allow for injuries or sudden impressions.

"Somebody could get injured and instead of working with 30 players, you are working with 29 through no fault of your own," he said. "The panel we have at the minute is taking us up to the end of January, and in January it will change. There will be a few guys going in, a few guys going out.

"It's up to them to put their hand up and show that they don't want to go."

O'Mullan has been surprised with how the first few weeks of inter-county management have gone. He added: "The trials have gone well. We asked clubs to nominate people, we asked people to come in. There are one or two to come, one or two we would have liked, but didn't get.

"But we have 95 per cent of the players we are looking for."

Belfast Telegraph

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