Wounded Banner look to the 16th man

CLARE GO in search of their fourth successive final appearance but won’t be even thinking of facing Cork ahead of what promises to be arguably their toughest start to the championship since manager John Minogue, Cyril Lyons and Alan Dunne took over in 2008. Limerick, backed by a senior attacking unit of Declan Hannon, Graeme Mulcahy and Kevin Downes, will travel to Ennis without fear, having beaten the home side twice in the National League meetings this year. Clare will also be mindful of last year’s championship opener when having to dig very deep in order to see off their near neighbours in The Gaelic Grounds and manager John Minogue is wary of Limerick’s prowess ahead of the knock-out tie.

“I think going by reports, Limerick are stronger this year. They had four or five of their senior team playing in an All-Ireland quarter-final at the weekend and have talented players such as [Kevin] Downes, Declan [Hannon] and [Graeme] Mulcahy and there is also a lot of goodwill for Limerick hurling at the moment.

“Limerick hurling is on the up and they are buzzing this year but we have to go out and play them. We have an advantage in that we are playing in Cusack Park, even though they have been quite successful in Ennis this year until the intermediates beat them in the final.”

One major disadvantage for Clare is that they will have to play without the services of arguably their most influential player, Darach Honan whom Minogue feels might not play any part in the Under 21 campaign, regardless of how far the county manage to advance.

“Darach [Honan] won’t be featuring as he has a long term injury. I suppose it’s an injury that he should have looked after earlier in the year and it looks as if his hurling season is over for club and county, for most of this year anyway. Other than that there is just a couple of niggling injuries but we should have a full squad to pick from aside from Darach.”

The loss of Honan have been offset somewhat by the fact that many of this Clare team have invaluable championship winning experience behind them in the last few years between the recent provisional success of the intermediates, back-to-back Munster crowns for the minors and of course those memorable 2009 Munster and All-Ireland Under 21 titles. Whether that knowhow will benefit Clare in a tight game will only be known on Tuesday night.

“You hope that it would but I would think that our team is physically not as strong as other years. If you take 2008, 2009 and 2010, guys were probably further up to the age. A lot of the guys on this year’s team will be around again next year. OK Honan and a few others will be overage but a lot of them are in the 19 or 20 age bracket and guys like Patrick O’Connor, Conor McGrath, Shane Golden and these lads are all underage next year. So I think the age profile and the physical profile of our players would not be as strong as it was in the previous two or three years.

So bearing in mind that the Under 21 championship has no second chances or backdoor system, what can prove the difference for the home side this evening?

“You would be hoping that there would be a good turnout of Clare supporters on the night. Certainly there was good support there the night of the Munster Intermediate final, it was a good result and I think it has maybe brought a bit of interest back with the hurling public. With also the fact that the minors are Munster cham- pions after an excellent performance in Cork, I think those wins have put a bit of buzz back into supporters, the weather is picking up as well so hopefully we get a good Clare support out because definitely Limerick will be travelling in numbers.”

Having a 16th man on the ter- race could well be a key ingredient in what promises to be a riproaring Munster derby.


Central Council labelled a disgrace

CLARE All-Ireland winner Jim McInerney used the platform of last Thursday’s special county board meeting to lower his blade into the workings of the Central Council.

In a hard-hitting statement, McInerney, a Munster and All-Ireland winner with Clare in 1995 and who led Tulla to their historic county championship success in 2007, lambasted the Central Council for the way its management of inter-county fixtures is impacting on the club scene.

“I think it’s a scandal as Munster champions we don’t know when we’re playing our All-Ireland semifinal,” said McInerney in reference to the fact that Clare won the Munster final on July 10, but had to wait until two weeks later to know when they would be playing their All-Ireland semi-final.

“It’s not good enough. It is typical of Central Council and how they’re running their show and what they’re doing to club hurling and football. I think as a county we should go national on this. We should highlight this.

“We are Munster minor champions and we should be the curtainraiser to Tipperary who are Munster senior champions. We should be the curtainraiser to Tipp, irrespective of who we are playing. It would solve a lot of problems,” McInerney added.

It was only decided after last Monday All-Ireland quarter-finals – Kilkenny v Waterford and Galway v Antrim respectively that Clare would be in All-Ireland semi-final action on Sunday, August 7.

The decision was annoucned by Central Council after a meeting of the CCCC on Monday morning.


Intermediates appeal for one week break

THE county intermediate hurling side that made history two weeks ago when bringing a first ever provincial title to the county in the grade used the special meeting of the Clare County Board to issue their call for a seven-day run in free from club championship duties ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway.

“We need to get a week to prepare for the All-Ireland semi-final from the 6th to the 13th,” selector Niall Romer told last Thursday’s meeting – directing his appeal to both clubs and the top table for this leeway to be given to the intermediates before their semi-final against Galway on August 13 that will now take place in Cusack Park.

“We have no problem with club hurling. When club hurling is going well, county hurling is going well, but our players just want a fair crack of the whip before the All-Ireland semi-final.

“A week is all we’re asking for. A week from the 6th to the 13th. Before we played Cork in the Munster semifinal we had one player who played championship two nights before, but we said nothing about it. Now all we are asking for is that you give us a bit of a break. We’re fighting our own corner here and all we want is that week,” added Romer.

The move by the intermediate management comes after their preparations for the Munster final against Limerick were hampered by club and county board insistence that club games go ahead during the week leading up to the fixture that took place on Wednesday July 13.

“We’re the whipping boys of the Clare set-up. We were given no chance,” said Romer ahead of the Munster final.

“If we got a little bit more support from certain people it would mean so much to us. We’re fighting against people in our own county. In racing language it should only be a seven furlong race, but it feels like it’s a Grand National. There are hurdles every step of the way.

“It’s very frustrating, but it’s driving us on. We’re working away on our own. All we were asking that we’d have no matches from Wednesday to Wednesday so that we wouldn’t run the risk of having any more injuries,” he added.

Before the Munster final club games were played up until the Saturday beforehand, much to the chagrin of the management.

The situation was magnified when key player Niall Gilligan injured his hamstring when lining out for Sixmilebridge, but he still took his place on the Clare team four days later that brought a first ever title in the grade to the county.


Chairman is ‘not God’

A WAR of words over the chaos that threatened club championship fixtures over the next month broke out at last Thursday’s county board meeting convened specially to try to deal with what full-time secretary Pat Fitzgerald a “doomsday” situation.

The robust exchanges were between Doonbeg delegate Michael Neenan and county board chairman Michael O’Neill as they clashed over the Masters Fixtures Plan and its failure to make any provision for club championship games to take place in July

“The night we ratified this Masters Fitxtures plan, I suggested that night that when the county teams would be out of the championships, we would play a round of the championship,” said Neenan in leading his charge against the county board.

“You Mr Chairman ruled it out that week. You ruled it out quite strongly from the top table. You said the Masters Fitxtures plan was there and that it wouldn’t be changed. What has changed since?

“Who called this meeting? Did any delegate ring you up to call this meeting? Was it managers from county teams that called it? Was it you from the top table who called the meeting?,” added Mr Neenan.

“I called the meeting as chairman of the Clare County Board,” responded O’Neill, while board secretary Pat Fitzgerald said “there was no point calling you all in when Doomsday is here. It’s now”.

However, Neenan then resumed his stinging criticism of the fixtures blueprint. “There is a Master Fitxtures Plan here Mr Chairman and you shot me down quite strongly when I suggested when all teams would be out of Munster and Qualifiers that we would come back and look at it,” he said.

“We are looking at something blind here tonight. We could have played games that would have helped out managers going forward, if we had played our club championships over the past three weeks.

“I am looking at three weekends in July when games could have been played. How come you couldn’t see this happening. You left three weekends in July when nothing happened.

“You called us in here a big late. You are right on top of the semi-finals of the minor and intermediate now. There were three weekends when we could have been playing hurling and football championship. I pointed that out to you quite clearly,” he said.

“Things happen,” responded the board chairman. “We are where we are. We are in two All-Ireland semifinals and one Munster semi-final.

“I’m not God, I’m only chairman of the Clare County Board. I can’t pre-empt what’s going to happen,” O’Neill added.


Minors need more time

CLARE’S history making minor team should be given a two-week lead in to prepare for key championship games so as to maximise the potential the team has to bring further honours to the county.

That was the message delivered to last Thursday’s Clare County Board meeting that was specially convened to try and bring some resolution to the fixtures crisis that the county now finds itself in due to an overlap and clash of club and inter-county championship matches.

County minor team Joint-manager, Donal Moloney, told delegates that a two-week preparation period was vital to the teams’ chances,

“If we are out on the 14th, “ said Moloney, “it will be a case that 16 of the first 20 would be playing the week before. The majority of our players will be playing senior the week before, because they are very important to their clubs.

“If you go back to last year’s AllIreland semi-final against Dublin, we nearly got caught, because we couldn’t get the preparation right. If you look at it all our best performances over the past three years have come when we have had a two week lead in.

“If we are out on the 14 and the senior championship is on on the 6/7 of August, we won’t have our players for that week. We would not be able to plan properly because the week leading up to the match is essentially a rest week.

“It’s a major drawback to us getting to an All-Ireland final. Players are very ambitious and we are requesting that they get a fair crack of the whip,” added Moloney.

However, PJ Fitzpatrick, who preceded Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor in the minor management hotseat rejected the notion of a twoweek run-in, telling delegates that it wasn’t realistic.

“To have these kinds of problems are great problems to have,” said Fitzpatrick. “We are always crying out when we don’t have inter-county success and it absolutely fantastic that the county minors did so well and are going so well.

“I congratulate them whole-heartedly and I congratulate the intermediates. Having said all that we are all sharing the same bed and club hurling has to survive and club football has to survive.

“If it means, when you know what’s coming down the line after Tuesday, having to play some matches the over the weekend of the 7th of August that aren’t affected by the minor – if they’re to be played Monday or Tuesday night, play them.

“There can be no such thing as a team getting a clear run of a fortnight up to a match. That’s not reality. If all the matches were put back it’s going to mean in September that you’d have young lads playing minor for the clubs and Friday and senior on Saturday and schools starting in September. Putting off all matches doesn’t sort things either.

“We will have to play our club matches. That’s my view as a hurling person. We cannot neglect the bedrock of it which is the clubs. It’s not going to be an ideal world for anyone and the pie has to be shared,” he added.


Experience pays for Ennistymon

Ennistymon 0-12 – Éire Óg 0-9 at Cooraclare

ENNISTYMON are going places; Éire Óg simply are not.

That’s a summary of this Garry Cup final in one sentence as the north Clare Magpies moved forward to Cusack Cup fare in 2012 as impressive winners of this second tier competition.

And, in reality they won this game as they pleased, from the front in the second half as Éire Óg’s tepid performance eventually petered out before the end as their attack failed to make any real impact against a resolute Ennistymon defence.

Contrast this to Ennistymon’s forwards because when it mattered most experienced heads like Joe Dowling and Brian Conway slotted key points from play, while the midfield dominance they enjoyed thanks to David Murphy and Ronan Linnane gave them the platform to win a first ever Garry Cup.

It may have taken Ennistymon 15 minutes to register a score, but that slow start wasn’t bettered that much by an Éire Óg side that failed to translate possession into scores, with a free from Stephen Hickey after three minutes their only return.

Into this vacuum eventually came Ennistymon, with a breakaway point from Joey Rouine mid-way through the half finally getting them going.

That Éire Óg’s best moment of the game came in the 17th minute when Ciaran Russell started and finished a move when he stormed up the field with real intent said much about the overal Townie performance.

They were dire, especially in what was a turgid first half that saw Ennistymon grind out a 0-5 to 0-3 interval lead on the back of the free-taking of Joe Dowling and Brian Conway, who bagged two points each.

A brilliant long range free from David Ryan two minutes before the break did rally the Townies somewhat while another free Stephen Hickey a minute after the resumption had the gap down to the minimum.

Alas, this dawn was a very false one as Ennistymon soon got into the groove once more and effectively closed out the game in the first 12 minutes when a brilliant effort from David Murphy was followed by points by Brian Conway (2), Joe Dowling and Sean McConigely moved them 0-10 to 0-6.

Éire Óg needed a goal, but it never looked like happening as their forwards ran out of ideas long before the end. Another David Ryan point, this time from play in the 43rd minute, again raised their spirits, but by the time Brian Conway resorted their four-point advantage entering the last ten minutes the Garry Cup was firmly destined for a trip up the N67 and not in the Ennis Road.

The Townies did try to take the fight until the last, with substitute David Russell pegging it back to a threepoint game deep in injury time, but had a goal arrived to get them out of the jail, it would have been an injustice – to their own performance and to Ennistymon’s superiority over the 60-something minutes as they finally laid claim to some senior silverware.

It was something that was long overdue.


Magpies get it right in the end

WHEN you think about it, it’s been a tough few years for Ennistymon when it comes to senior football. Very tough at times, when losing just always seemed to be their lot when there was some senior silverware at stake.

The 2007 Senior B final and they go down to St Joseph’s Miltown; the 2009 Senior B final and it was Kilmhil’s turn to hold them scoreless in the first half on their way to victory; the hat-trick of defeats came when Wolfe Tones mastered them last year in another Senior B decider.

Sometimes though, enough is enough.

Maybe this will be the day that Ennistymon look back on and say was pivotal in their development as a force in senior. Of course, only time will tell if it’s a real building block for the future, but what it has done already is lend more credence to the belief that the north Clare Magpies are one of the coming teams in Clare football.

They’ve won minor and under 21 titles in recent years – now this Garry Cup as they look to Cusack Cup football for 2012, not that manager Brendan Rouine was getting carried away afterwards.

“To go up to Division 1, having won Division 2 is important for us. For us in Division 2 it has been all about getting promoted. It has taken us the last four or five years to do that. It is nice to go up as winners.

“We are coming from a big struggle. We struggle to get out of our group in the championship every year and we still have two games to play to try and get out of our group. We’re taking one game at a time and are not going to get carried away with this win.

“We are very happy with the win. Éire Óg got off to a good start and had plenty of ball, but we were happy with our overall performance and it was good to get the win.

“We knew that Éire Óg would come back at us in the second half. It was ding-dong at times and we knew that the game could have gone either way. We just edged it on the day, but on another day it could have been a different result. We know that.”


A labour of love for Byrnes & Co

IT started in GAA 125 year. It was a year of celebration in the county where you could say it all started, just because Carron’s own Michael Cusack who got the whole GAA show on the road back in ‘84.

Domhnall Ó Loinsigh was a key member of the Clare GAA 125 committee, while Naoise Jordan, who is a carpenter by trade came up with his own unique 125 commemoration when carving momento to those who had captained the county senior hurling team since the earliest years of the GAA.

Therein lay the background to Cla re Hurling Ca pta ins – the book penned by Ollie Byrnes, with the considerable help of Ó Loinsigh and Jordan and which will be launched this Friday night in Minogue’s in Tulla.

“Naoise asked Domhnall O’Loingsigh and I to help in researching the names of the captain’s of Clare senior championship teams, going back to 1887,” recalls Byrnes.

“Previous to the idea for the book, Naoise had inscribed a wooden plaque with the names of the 76 men. At the launch of the plaque, unveiled by John Hanly, President of the county board, John stated that it was a shame that so little was known about many of these men from the turn of the 20th century.

“It was decided by us to focus on the captain’s in the senior championship. I want to stress that we are not making a distinction between the championship and other competitions, but we must call a halt somewhere,” he adds.

The result is Cla re Hurling Ca pta ins , a project that Byrnes freely admits had never really crossed his mind until John Hanly, Naoise Jordan and Domhnall Ó Lionsaigh helped sow the seed.

“In 2006, I produced the book Saffron a nd Blue , never thinking that a book on Clare Hurling captain’s would be published. There was a lot of useful material in this book and I was aware of repetition creeping in. But thankfully this hasn’t happened,” he says.

“I wanted something new on these players. For that reason, I went back to scrapbooks that were given to me as a youngster. One of these scrapbooks is 60 years old and is a treasure trove of cuttings from 1950-1955.

“This scrapbook contains material on all the strong hurling counties. It also has a series of articles under the heading ‘Name Waterford’s Greatest Hurler’, ‘Name Clare’s Greatest Hurler’, etc., where Seamus O’Ceallaigh and other journalists invited the public to submit who they thought were their counties greatest player and to explain why they thought so.

“An article on Clare’s greatest appeared in The Sunda yIndependent on April 4th 1954. Some hurling followers suggested John Joe Doyle. Others went for Jimmy Smyth. O’Ceallaigh wrote ‘There was evidence from the first opinion expressed which suggested Jimmy Smyth as deserving of the title of Clare’s Greatest’, and gave as the reason a personal conviction that Smyth aroused the same terror in the minds of opposing defenders as did such great figures as Martin Kennedy (Tipperary), Mattie Power (Kilkenny) and Dinny Barry Murphy (Cork) in earlier days.

“Other older correspondents went on to recall the greatness of Tull and Dodger Considine, ‘Feather’ Henchy, John Shalloo, Dunny O’Callaghan, Seamus Cullinan and ‘Scooper’ Moloney who formed the back bone of Clare’s early hurling endeavours,” Byrnes adds.

The result is essays on all of Clare’s captains since 1887, brought together between the covers on a book, that Fr Harry Bohan is set to launch on Friday.

“Many of the names in Clare Captain’s will be familiar to followers. Others will not be so familiar,” says Byrnes. “There are people like Freddy Garrihy, who emigrated to the United States in 1927, a man who is largely forgotten. Likewise, Pat Hannon from Scariff. He too emigrated to the United States. Newspaper accounts from 1914-1920 credit Pat Hannon as being an outstanding inter-county forward.”

All the players, well known or forgotten about have their place in the pantheon.


‘Any day you beat Doonbeg…’

PATRICK Murrihy smoked a few cigarettes on the sideline. Not as many as Cesare Menotti did in his day, with his ready stash of smokes underneath his sideline bench, but there were still plenty of plumes wafting in the Cooraclare air.

It was no wonder. It was a final after all. A Kilmurry Ibrickane v Doonbeg final at that. One that Patrick Murrihy didn’t want to lose – his first final day out manning the sideline for Kilmurry Ibrickane after his job of journeywork in making footballers out of these players when they first learned to kick ball.

“Beating Doonbeg is a good day for Kilmurry Ibrickane,” he says drawing breath seconds after Michael Rock’s final whistle. “We haven’t won the Cusack Cup that often and to win another one and to win it by beating Doonbeg in the final makes it all the more sweeter. Any day you beat Doonbeg, you have a good day’s work done. We have a good day’s work done in winning this Cusack Cup final.”

“I suppose that we had a chance to try and kick further ahead when we went three points up a few times. This Kilmurry team always gets enough possession – it just depends what you do with that possession when you get it.

“We used that possession very well at times, but there is room for improvement from our own point of view. If we can convert the possession that we’re winning into more scores, that will be great. When we didn’t get a few extra scores we left them in the game right until the end, but we’re delighted to have held out.”

With it Kilmurry landed their third Cusack Cup and first since 2008. Important where bragging rights back west are concerned, but you sense that beating Doonbeg was just as important, if not more than that, especially when Murrihy allows his mind drift back to last year’s county semi-final when Doonbeg ambushed them at the death.

“The lads were very, very hurt last year. They knew they had the capability of winning that county semifinal against Doonbeg last year. You have to give credit to Doonbeg – they kept going until the final whistle and won. That’s why beating them today was important.

“The Cusack Cup has been good for us. We have brought new players in. John Willie Sexton, Seamus Murrihy, Niall Hickey and these lads. That’s what the league is there for. There is no point waiting until the second, third and fourth rounds of the championship. The guys stood up.

“We had the same team there for two or three years, but now there’s real competition for places. These lads have brought a new freshness into it and training will be very good from now.

“We are very pleased. We are where we want to be at this time of the year. We do have a few injuries but hopefully we have lads coming back and we’ll get stronger from here.

“At the end of the day, later on in the year this Cusack Cup win will be forgotten about. It’s fantastic to win it, but it’s all about championship. That’s the only thing that matters.”

Championship starts from here.


Kilmurry lay down a marker

Kilmurry Ibrickane 0-13 – Doonbeg 1-8 at Cooraclare

IT could be a dress rehearsal for a county final later in the year, but that doesn’t mean this was more shadow boxing and sparring than the real thing. Only the league final and something that will be forgotten about once the chase for Jack Daly resumes, but the cash prize of € 2500 from The Clare Champion sponsors and old rivalry also ensured this was going to be as full-blooded as any championship game. So it was that Kilmurry Ibrickane and Doonbeg tore into each other with the same intent they showed in the last two county semi-finals here in Cooraclare as Kilmurry’s classy forwards and much better combination play edged them home to a twopoint win and their third Cusack Cup success. It went to the wire like those two previous championship jousts, but it could have been different, very different because such was Kilmurry Ibrickane’s superiority at times that they looked a class apart, with only Doonbeg’s earthy qualities of never giving up on a cause keeping them competitive to the last. They looked like being swamped on a number of occasions – in the first half when Kilmurry moved three points clear when the two best forwards on view, Noel Downes and Mark McCarthy scored three points between them in six-minute burst from the 20th minute to put their side 0-5 to 0-2 clear; at the start of the second when another three-point burst had three points between the sides again. It was the first real daylight between the sides after they had shared four points in the first 15 minutes – Ian McInerney and Enda Coughlan frees sandwiching a Shane Ryan point from play and a David Tubridy free in that time. Doonbeg should have had a goal though when after nine minutes Shane Killeen was clean through on goal only for a brilliant lunging block from John Willie Sexton to deny him a certain goal. A Doonbeg goal did come in the 27th minute and it gave them an early lifeline such was the growing menace of a Kilmurry team as the interval approached. Colm Dillon pilfered the ball in the right corner on the dressing room side of the field, fed Shane Ryan whose shot for a point from 30 yards was brilliantly flicked to the net by David Tubridy.

The sides were level and remained so at the break after a flurry of four scores in the last three minutes of the half – Ian McInerney launched two exocets from placed balls over the bar, while Colm Dillon from distance from play and Enda Doyle’s fisted effort had the sides deadlocked at 1-4 to 0-7.

Ultimately it was Kilmurry’s greater combination play that told, something that allied to their fast start to the second half with points from a Enda Coughlan free and efforts from play by Niall Hickey and Mark McCarthy moved them 0-10 to 1-4 clear inside eight minutes.

Doonbeg did hit back with a Shane Ryan point and a David Tubridy free by the 41st minute but the chasm between the sides was really shown up when three more unanswered points via Ian McInerney (2) and Noel Downes put four between them for the first time.

That crucial Downes score came with four minutes remaining, giving Kilmurry the cushion to withstand the inevitable Doonbeg onslaught near the end that yielded two David Tubridy points to bring it back to two points.

The Magpies couldn’t get any closer – they didn’t really deserve to be either, such was Kilmurry’s superiority over the hour.

They’re the classiest team of this generation, probably any Clare football generation, something they proved in winning seventh major title in Clare over the past four seasons.

They’re the best and the benchmark for everyone else.

Kilmurry Ibrickane
Peter O’Dwyer Jnr (7), JohnWillie Sexton (7), Darren Hickey (7) Martin McMahon (8), Shane Hickey (7), EvanTalty (7),Thomas Lernihan (7), Seamus Murrihy (8), Peter O’Dwyer (7), Mark McCarthy (8) (0-2), Enda Coughlan (8) (0-2f), Ian McInerney (7) (0-5, 3f, one 45), Noel Downes (8) (0-3), Michael Hogan (7), Niall Hickey (7) (0-1).

Paul O’Connor (7) for Lernihan [Half-Time], Stephen Moloney (6) for Hogan [48 Mins], Johnnie Daly (6) for Niall Hickey [60 Mins].

Nigel Dillon (7), Joe Blake (7), Padraig Gallagher (7) Conor Whelan (7), Brian Dillon (7), Paraic Aherne (7), RichieVaughan (7), ColmDillon (7) (0-1), Enda Doyle (7) (0-1), Shane Killeen (6), Shane Ryan (7) (0-2), EamonTubridy (6), Paul Dillon (6), Kevin Nugent (7), DavidTubridy (7) (1-4, 4f).

Frank O’Dea (6) for Killeen [21 Mins], Conor Downes (6) for Paul Dillon [47 Mins], Shane O’Brien (6) for EamonTubridy [51 Mins].

Michael Rock (Ennistymon)