CLARINBRIDGE and Galway senior hurler Evan Niland. PHOTO: RAY RYAN


Niland: ‘Winning Leinster has to be nearly our All-Ireland’

SCHOOL’S out, the dinner has been hurriedly gobbled up, and a pre-teen Evan Niland heads out to the piece of land next to the family home in what has become a daily ritual to practice his shooting into the goalposts astutely positioned on the lawn.

The then-Killeeneen National School pupil unearthed a priceless life-hack: striking the sliotars from the field towards the house, and not vice-versa, would ensure none of the priceless scoring commodities will be lost.

Countless hours come and go as the talented youngster partakes in the routine where in his mind he often morphs into his childhood hero Ger Farragher or, on occasion, even the enemy in form of Kilkenny legend Eddie Brennan — his favourite player growing up — firing over the winner in Croke Park.

“I don’t know why, I just loved taking shots,” says Evan — son of Clarinbridge native Jarlath Niland and Martina O’Halloran who hails from Woodford — when trying to decipher why he spent all that time pucking the ball outside.

Practice makes perfect as the say but hurling always came natural to him. The repetition certainly did Niland no harm and he is now regarded as one of, if not the most accurate players in the game.

This is a statement backed up by the fact he was only pipped at the post by all-time Kilkenny genius TJ Reid as this year’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship top scorer after clocking up 77 points across the Tribesmen’s eight outings. Never mind his remarkable scoring feats on the local scene since making his senior club debut at 18…

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