Wicklow GAA Greats – An Interview With Don Hyland

We had a chat with one of this counties most well known GAA figures about his great hurling career. A man who is one of the finest hurlers this county has ever produced and as good as any hurler across the country in his playing days!! This man needs no introduction so here’s how our chat with the man himself went:

Our Chat With Don Hyland:

Q. You have had a career spanning many decades, what age were you when you took up hurling and what year and game did you make your debut for the Carnew Senior Hurling Team?

A. I started hurling when I was 6 or 7.. U10s Carnew with Red Bill Brennan an Liam Collins trainers. Started playing Senior in 1989 1st game V Kilcoole

Q. Is it true the Wexicans approached you to hurl with them back in 96 when they won their one All Ireland in A Row?

A. The Wexicans didn’t need any help in 96 they’d a serious team 👍

Q. We heard a story from a source that you got a sliotar in the ghoulies in a county game and there was no physio that time, just a first aid bag with deep heat, a sponge and some holy water😂 We are told the manager was Jack Murray who was also the nurse in attendance and trying to come to your aid he sprayed your bits with deep heat but you actually had a cut on your meat and two veg and your squeals could be heard on the Main Street in Arklow! Is this true and if so what was your version of events?

A. Got plenty of belts and bangs over the years but you weren’t allowed get injured with Jack as manager . Great manager not so sure about his nursing career 🤣

Q. You would have hurled with plenty of Carnew lads on the county team and would have carpooled to training together a lot. As a man who drives for a living was there any man you wouldn’t have been happy to be a passenger with?

A. Timmy Collins.. the man shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel.. thank God he works in Shillelagh he hasn’t far to travel 🤣

Credit: John Quirke

Q. The Carnew teams are famous for their nicknames for their players with Satan, Taepot and Wally some of the many! Had you a nickname?

A. I was called lot’s of names over the years alright nothing really stuck.. Just Hyland..not many Hylands around Curnew

Q. We heard from a little birdie that you were called the whinger😉 Can you explain the nickname and where you got it from?😅😅

A. I used to whinge a lot at lads not hitting the ball in often enough maybe that’s where that come from

Q. You were the first Wicklow hurler to represent us on the Leinster Railyway Cup hurling team, a savage achievement. Who would you have played alongside on those teams?

A. I was very very lucky to play Railway Cup and play with some of the greatest ever..the likes of Henry Shefflin, JJ Delaney, Michael Kavanagh, Damian Fitzhenry, Charlie Carter, Brian, Whelehan, Brian Carroll, James McGarry all savage player’s

Q. Training would have been a big part of your life. Who would you say were the best and worst men for training on both Carnew and Wicklow teams over the years

A. Worst trainers for Carnew is easy, Enda Brennan, the Mulroe twins could never train on Sunday morning, always had to go to Mass no matter what time training was at.. Graham Keogh and Joe Murphy were always injured, not from training too hard.. With the county Steven Coady, Lar Byrne and Casey O Brien were brutal but Mick Neary was deffo the worst.

Q. As easily one of the greatest forwards we have seen in Wicklow you would have drawn your fair share of rough treatment. Was there a player in particular who really gave you timber over the years

A.  I always enjoyed a good tussle on the field especially with MA O Neill or Johnny Nevin Carlow but the most timber I got from an early age was from the late great John Casey, St Pats.. from U10 to senior that’s a lot of timber but we always had a few pints afterwards.. think he even managed to hit me when we were on the same county team 😅

Q. Most people would know you for being a top class hurler but you were also a serious footballer and we believe you got called up every year to the county football team when they were very good. Was there a reason you never tried the dual player thing back in the day?

A. I played dual up to U21 but there was always a clash in fixtures. Its a regret I didn’t give football a real go but most football manager’s wanted me to drop the hurling but I couldn’t do that.. Mosey Coffey was very fair to me an gave me every opportunity to play both but I was over 30 an just had knee surgery so I opted against it.. still regret it a little especially when Mosey was so fair an helpful..

Q. Was the rivalry between Carnew & Glenealy in the early 00’s really as fierce as it looked and had you many broken bones to prove it?

A. Ah it was serious enough now to be fair but we both had top player’s who wanted to win an sometimes it went to far.
In 2002 we had outside referees from Carlow laois Wexford etc we played Glenealy in the 1st round and 3 times in a semi final.. not one player was sent off or even a hint of a row.. 4 great games. I think all championship games from 1/4 final should be outside refs. I’ll probably be punished for saying that .. black card maybe

Q. The GAA has gone very much to a whole new level of commitment with prehab, rehab and nutritionists all integral parts of gaa players lives. What was the rehab and prehab craic like in your time?😅

A. When I started playing there was about 3 non smokers on the team an when I finished there wasn’t even 1 smoker.. it’s gone nearly too far. We’d some great craic in the Arklow Bay or Lawless’s hotels after game’s.. that’s all gone and it’s a shame because you really got to know lads having some food and a pint and that included the opposition.. you really found out who had the bottle for it when Tuesday training came.. lot’s of injuries appeared on Tuesdays🤣

Q. There were plenty of “characters” you would have played with over the years, was there any that really stood out and any good stories involving them?

A. That’s a hard one bill. Over 20yrs of travelling around training and playing matches all over Ireland and a good few matches in London topped off with two team holidays to Lanzarote with some great characters with club and county . The 1st trip to Lanzarote will live long in my memory especially the sight of Lar Byrne, Gerry Byrne, Steven Coady and Timmy Collins dressed in drag on stage👍👍 For more info contact Mick Hagan, he’s the video evidence to back me up 🤣🤣

Q. You played in many big games over your career, which one was the most memorable for you and why?

A. All Ireland B final 2003 most memorable for lots of reasons.. it was Wicklow’s 1st senior hurling All Ireland. I was hurling county nearly 14 years and thought we’d never win it.
The team was captained by club mate Timmy Collins an it included lads I’d grown up with playing county. The likes of Casey O Brien, MA O Neill, Danny Curran, MJ O Neill, Gerry Murray and a few young lads I’d coached a little in Carnew like Graham Keogh, Ted and Liam Kennedy, Joe Murphy and the powerful Gary Doran.. that was a special win and long overdue. Also managed by Mick Neary another team mate. Great day for Wicklow

Q. As a free taker during your career you would have been in situations of big pressure on many occasions, was there a standout moment of a pressure in any game and have you a score that stands out as one of your greatest?

A. I honestly never regarded myself as a free taker but I always took them when asked/told. Had to work hard at it.. it’s great when they’re sailing over but devastating when not. County final in 09 only a minute left a free under the stand in aughrim right beside the Glenealy supporters.. thank God it went over put us 2 up to see it out..scored a goal against Laois in Thurles in the B Final in 04, that’s a great memory or the 1st time I scored a goal in a co final v kiltegan in 99 great feeling great memories

Q. A lot of young players would have looked up to you as a role model to emulate, growing up who would your Wicklow idol have been and on a national level who would it have been?

A. I always looked up to the Carnew 4 in a row team of 78/81 .. Paddy “Giggler” Doyle’s skill always stood out for me and Denis Kilbride was always one I admired and looked up to. On the county it was Ned Cremin and Wally Manley. On the National level Nicky English, John Fenton and Offalys Liam Currams a dual man

Q. As a top class forward you would have been given close attention from the best of them, which Wicklow player would have given you the toughest time of it?

A. Kevin Manning Glenealy. Quick, strong, skilfull and always wanted the ball…Hardest men to mark were always the ones who wanted the ball

Q. You hurled in a time when you went out and hurled hard and partied just as hard. Give us one good story from the partying side of the career?

A. We played Derry one year and stayed in Monaghan the night before.. Co board put us in a hotel with a wedding on.. think I seen Jackie Napier dancing at one stage.. thing is we won and won well against a strong Derry team

Q. What advice would you give a young hurler these days and would you have any ideas how we can keep the great work being done at underage hurling going or help to improve even further on it?

A. All young hurlers try an hurl every single day but make sure your enjoying it but the more skilfull you get the more enjoyable it is.. Wicklow needs to get hurling going in all national schools in the county with proper coaching every week all year long with organised game’s and competitions.. so many boy’s an girl’s all over our county never get the chance to even try hurling, that’s a disgrace..

Q. What advice would you give young players coming up through the hurling ranks?

A. Practice as often as possible an always an always train hard. Never ever skip training

Q. You have coached some teams in the past. Have you any interest in getting involved in an Inter County Set Up?

A: I’ve been involved with under age inter county management before and I find it very time consuming and nothing comes near playing

Q. If you were to pick the biggest hatchet man you ever seen in your playing days who it would it have been?

A. Don Hyland: Biggest Hatchet man was Sylvie Og Linnane son of Galway legend Sylvie Linnane… Sylvie Og played for London for year’s wild man with a stick. Bear Doran a close 2nd 😉

Q. Who was the greatest Manager you played under?

A. Greatest manager was John Henderson

Q. What was the funniest thing you came across on the pitch over the years?

A. Seen a referee in Westmeath getting a serious dressing down from a Westmeath players mother at half time..

Q. You reached heights in the game that most hurlers can only ever dream of, was their any regrets of something you didn’t achieve or a day when things jut didn’t go your way?

A. 2002 Leinster championship v Laois in Aughrim. We’d a really strong team and I got sent off in the 1st half.. best chance we had to progress in the Leinster championship.. huge regret over that game.. no excuse but a horrible football ref didn’t help my cause 😂😂

Q. Did you have a favourite venue to play on over the year?

A. I always enjoyed playing in Dr Cullen Park in Carlow.. underground tunnel leading onto a really wide pitch with a great sod.. Aughrim is always the place u wanted to play growing up but I’ve some great memories playing in Arklow “The Dogtrack”. Jesus team’s hated coming to play Wicklow there, it has a great atmosphere small pitch for hurling but some great game’s played there over the years

Q. If you were to assess the current standard of Wicklow Hurling on a 0-10 scale what would you give it and why? (Could you also give an improved score you believe is achievable in 5 years Q. Did you ever keep Graham Keogh scoreless?😅

A. Wicklow are probably around the 5/10 at the mo, our target should be Joe McDonagh.. we always held our own and normally beat Carlow, Westmeath, Meath so I don’t see why we shouldn’t aim to get back to that standard.. I’ve mentioned it already but the schools should be our biggest target for getting hurling to improve all over the county.. I’d also like the GAA to force the so called bigger counties to help out the weaker counties .. For example Carnew should be in the Wexford hurling league.. it’s working for Bray in the Dublin league, Mount Leinster Rangers in the Kilkenny league.. it can only improve hurling, just do away with borders but still have our own knock out championship. It’s got to be at all grades and ages. That would get us up to 8/10

Q. Did you ever keep Graham Keogh scoreless?

A. Graham Keogh couldn’t be held scoreless on or off the field he’d always find a way to score. Lala was always in for a penny in for a pound 😅😅

Q. Can you give the biggest Hatchet Men you played against?

Q. Can you give your Top 5 Toughest Wicklow Hurling Men you played with or against over the years

Q. Can you give your dream 15 from Wicklow club players you played with or against over the years

Q. Can you give your Top 5 Wicklow Hurlers you played with or against over the years

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