Lohan says Clare hurlers lacking proper support from the county board
‘You need a more dynamic county board than what is there’ says former star
Brian Lohan: “There’s great clubs, there’s really good people involved at both club level and at county level. Sometimes I think they’re a bit let down by the county board.” Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Anyone familiar with Brian Lohan and his own inimitable style of hurling might understand why he chose a GAA Legends Tour launch to issue a gentle broadside against his own county. Lohan was never soft or superficial and certainly not fashionable.
He still speaks like he played, straight up and no gobbledygook, and even if retired since 2006 Lohan still has strong views on Clare hurling.
They haven’t won a Munster title since he was lording full back in 1998, and their 2013 All-Ireland win aside, he reckons Clare’s chance for more tangible success may well have passed them by.
Lohan isn’t glorifying his own era either, at least not when it comes to Davy Fitzgerald, the current Wexford manager and the player who stood directly behind him in the Clare goal throughout those thick and thin years of the 1990s.
“Generally relationships are very good amongst everyone, bar one player,” Lohan says of Clare’s All-Ireland-winning team of 1995 and 1997, making no effort to conceal who that one player is.
Lohan was referenced by Fitzgerald in his latest book At All Costs, published last year, after they crossed paths in a Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final, Lohan then manager of UL, Fitzgerald manager of LIT.
“I really don’t have anything to say about him to be honest,” says Lohan.
What does he make of Fitzgerald’s openly passionate style of management? (Last Sunday he was sent to the stand for contesting a decision in the Wexford-Galway championship match).
“I don’t know if it’s genuine passion. We’re all passionate about the game. We show it in different ways. So, you know, he has the way he does things and people have to kind of fit into that. But I think some of the antics, they’re not great.”
Lohan’s passion for Clare hurling comes across as more muted, if no less telling, and he openly questions the county board and the sort of support he feels is necessary to win back another Munster title.
“It’s a poor record in Munster really. They’ve got to the final for the last two years alright. But when it was knockout, we’d a poor record in Munster. Even though we did win that All-Ireland in 2013, we lost the first round badly against Cork. Then a couple of poor performances in the Munster Championship, albeit they did turn it around.
Really isn’t good enough for young fellas having to wait before they get their expenses because, you know, they do have to live
“The problem now is Tipp had a bit of lull last year after a couple of successful years. They had that lull, had that mental break when they weren’t involved in big games. They’re back now, and seem to really be at the pitch of it.
“Cork are a good quality team, they’re one of the traditional big three, and they’re not going to stay losing All-Irelands forever. They’ve got such quality that it’s difficult. When you have Tipp and Cork down, you have to make hay because they’re not going to stay down.”
Lohan also won four All Stars in his time, was 1995 Hurler of the Year.
Now, speaking at the launch of the 2019 Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tour Series, along with Donegal footballer Eamon McGee, he pointed to a few lasting shortfalls in the Clare hurling structures.
“Look, there’s great clubs, there’s really good people involved at both club level and at county level. Sometimes I think they’re a bit let down by the county board. That would be my own opinion on it.
“I think you need a more dynamic county board than what is there. There has been a couple of controversies there recently in relation to the county board. There is a lot of money involved in it [the game] and I think you have to have that level of professionalism within that structure . . .to to assist the teams and get the most out of the county teams. I don’t know if that’s there.
“I think last year, before the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway, that Friday night is the first time the players got their expenses for the whole year which just really isn’t good enough for young fellas having to wait before they get their expenses because, you know, they do have to live.
“That wouldn’t have been accepted back when I was playing 20 years ago, whereas it seems to be accepted now. It’s just things like that that have to be improved.
“But they had a great campaign and were unlucky not to be in the final and that’s credit to the whole set-up that that was never an issue. They just got their business done.”
Clare welcome Tipperary to Ennis on Sunday, in the third round of the Munster championship round-robin, a game which may well decide a place in the final. Lohan is torn between Clare and Liverpool FC this weekend, the club he supports; he’ll be in Madrid on Saturday for the Champions League final, still waiting on that ticket to come through.
“I don’t know, competition is very challenging, there’s a lot of counties doing an awful lot right,” he says of Clare’s chances this summer.
“Cork seem to be doing their business right, Kilkenny are doing their business right, Galway are doing their business right, you know, Limerick. You have a lot of good teams out there, good structures and good resources as well, while we have a good team we have reasonable structures – but we don’t seem to have the resources.”
He’s more positive however about the current joint management team of Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor.
“They’ve done a great job, worked well with the players, they seem to know exactly what their roles are and they seem to be working great”.
Might he ever consider Clare management, jointly or otherwise?
“I haven’t really thought about it. Not with the present county board.”
Anyone familiar with Lohan will know he won’t be easily turned either.