Band of Brothers Part 1: The GAA families who have represented their county in both Hurling and Football

Con O’Callaghan playing football in Croke Park

Words by Shane Stapleton

Russell Crowe says you build a team around brothers.

The Hollywood actor took over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2006 when the rugby league side were on their knees. Just eight years later, they won the grand final for the first time in 43 years with a 30-6 win over the Bulldogs. It was a victory built on blood.

Sam Burgess broke his cheekbone in the first tackle of the game but stayed on to win man of the match, leading a side that included two of his brothers. In August 2013, all four siblings — Sam, Luke and twins Tom and George — lined out against West Tigers to send Crowe's side top of the NRL.

Perhaps one of the great acts of sportsmanship ever seen came in September 2016 when triathlete Jonny Brownlee suddenly succumbed to the hot and heavy conditions in Mexico at the end of a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.

His elder brother Alastair gave up his chances of winning gold to help his brother — who had been weaving and stumbling — through the final 700m to claim second place.

There are myriad examples of GAA teams backboned by brothers. The Ó Sés, Brogans, Fennellys, Mahers, Powers, McGraths and Ryans, among others. Sometimes they end up wearing the same colours but still play for different teams. In the cases below, often in different codes, and sometimes together in both.

(Please let us know below or on Twitter and Facebook other examples of brothers playing in different codes.)


Con and Cian O’Callaghan (Dublin)

The young brothers are both exceptional hurlers and footballers but perhaps their paths were set when Cian lifted the Leinster MHC title in 2012 and Con did likewise with the Dublin footballers in 2014. Since then, the duo have played senior championship with the Sky Blues, the elder as a defender and the younger as a classy forward. At club level, both made their senior hurling starting debuts on huge days for Cuala — Cian in the 2012 county final and Con, who is a key forward for the Dalkey footballing side, in the 2015 Leinster final clash with Oulart-The Ballagh. Con was named Under-21 player of the month in March 2016 and went on to make his senior championship debut against Laois. Cian was handed his league debut in 2014 and is now a fixture in the full-back line.

Podge and Sean Collins (Clare)

Before Podge Collins took the hurling world by storm in 2013, his elder brother Sean was actually the more prominent of the two in Davy Fitzgerald’s side. However, injury curtailed Sean’s progress and while he was injured for the run to All-Ireland success, his younger sibling was pushing hard for a Hurler of the Year award. Since then, Sean has committed to the football while Podge followed suit in 2015 after being told he couldn’t play both by the hurling management. However that stance changed in 2016 when he came back from a cruciate injury to play for both sides, including the football where their dad Colm Collins was manager. Both Sean and Podge were key parts of the Cratloe side that won a Clare double in 2014.

Paul, Sean and Niall Curran (Tipperary)

The Currans of Mullinahone have been part of the Tipp furniture for the best part of 15 years now, with Paul part of the panel that won the All-Ireland in 2001 before playing a pivotal role at full-back in 2010. After retiring from the blue and gold in April 2015, he was brought into the backroom team by Eamon O’Shea as a defensive coach. His younger brother Sean made his championship debut at wing-forward against Cork in the 2016 Munster championship and also featured late on in the semi-final win over Galway. Like Paul and Sean, brother Niall has represented Tipperary at minor and Under-21 but did so in both codes, and went on to make his senior football championship debut in 2004 against Limerick. He left the panel after the 2011 season and continues to play for the club with his brothers. Niall has also worked as a selector with the Tipp under-21 hurling panel.

Diarmuid and Ciaran Lyng (Wexford)

Ciaran played Under-16 soccer for Ireland and on the back of that signed for Preston North End where he spent three years. He came back to Ireland and after winning an intermediate championship with St Martin’s, county boss Paul Bealin called him in. David Power then made the classy citóg captain in 2015, while Liam Dunne unsuccessfully tried to prise the talented dual player over to the small ball code. His elder brother Diarmaid, who goes by the nickname Gizzy, made his debut for the county hurlers in 2004 and was named captain of the side in 2010. He later went on to become a radio pundit with Off The Ball and TG4, among others.

Brian and Frank Lohan (Clare)
The sons of Gus — who hurled for Galway and Clare — spent a long time manning the full-back line for the Banner hurlers but Frank also liked to show up at the other end of the field. He once scored three points against Waterford in the hurlers’ forward line for Clare but he also did so with his boot for the ballers, coming on against Kerry in the 1997 Munster football championship and splitting the posts. (Skip to 2:00 mins below)