Banner folk basking in the glow of unexpected glory
All-Ireland triumphs are a rare event in Clare and the mood in the county has been transformed by a famous victory
“Now, how do you keep that? We have gotten to the top very quickly. But you are looking to keep it with young lads. There are a lot of 18- and 19-year-olds out there. They are back playing championship at the weekend. The celebrations ended tonight. Our job is to see if we can strengthen our panel and bring in players who can play the pattern we like. We want to keep players on their toes and keep the panel fresh.
“There is second-season syndrome but I can’t see the hunger going. We waited 11 years just to get back to a final. We had no senior medal on our team. I think the hunger and enthusiasm will be there but they will be a more confident team.”
Last year, Clare were beaten 3-18 to 1-20 by Limerick in phase three of the qualifiers. Two years ago Tipperary bounced them out of the Munster championship with three goals to spare and they headed to Salthill where Galway beat them by 4-25 to 0-20. Donnellan, John Conlon, Brendan Bugler, Conor McGrath, Cian Dillon, Liam Markham and Nicky O’Connell all featured that day. Clare’s progress this season has been incredible, something Padraic Collins reflected on after last Saturday night’s win.
Little over a year ago, the Doonbeg man was more associated with the senior football team than hurling team and he recalled playing a football match for the county against University of Limerick in January 2012 while the hurlers were meeting in a boxing ring in Ennis. “In February of last year I got sick and I was on the football at the time and I couldn’t get back into it when I came back – the physicality of the football the way it’s gone. I got a chance to come into the hurling and was lucky enough to get my place.”
Collins has been a phenomenally busy and positive force for Clare this summer. As Donnellan acknowledged during the week, the arrival of Clare’s U-21 players transformed the set- up.
“The young lads have shown us the way to a certain degree and its flooding through to the senior team and it’s brilliant for the county. When Davy came in he put great belief in us – we knew there was quality there with the lads coming from the 21s.There’s no one looking for perfection out there, you’re just trying to do your best – get on the ball, block a fella or do something like that and the little things add up.”
It didn’t fall into place overnight. In his post-match press conference, Fitzgerald referred to the blunt criticism the management had received over the summer when Clare’s short, precise passing game was not yielding the results in the Munster championship. As Mulqueen sees it now, it was a matter of maintaining their nerve.
“The blueprint Davy put together was based on a three- or four-year period and it began to come good for us in the qualifiers. We saw flashes for 20 or 25 minutes and it would go again. It was there more consistently against Limerick and again against Cork in the final. But we were learning all the time. We went out of it for 20 minutes and again in the replay when we didn’t score for 18 minutes and Cork drew level. But we learned in the replay how to finish off the game. It has been a learning curve.
“I think it helped that the younger players were winners at minor and under-21 and had beaten Kilkenny and the big names. But many counties have had underage teams and haven’t fulfilled. I was there with the minor team in 1997 – John Reddan was a centre-back of phenomenal skill. Yet not many made the breakthrough. And now they are feeding into a developing team and made their place. Tony Kelly has the 11, Colm Galvin the eight shirt.”