Sitting in the Cusack Park dugout for 46 minutes of Sunday’s county hurling final, Pádraig Chaplin, whose brother Seán played midfield, could never have envisaged how it would all pan out for either himself or Cratloe.
Subs are invariably placed in a tricky position. They want their club to win but equally want to be out there helping them over the line.
If Cratloe had won without his input, Pádraig Chaplin would have enjoyed that success but perhaps felt a smidgen removed from it had he not contributed in some way.
With the game in injury time, Cratloe a point down and the ball at the far end of the field, Chaplin and Cratloe looked a beaten team.
Inadvertently, however, Donal Madden’s attempt to find Tommy Lynch in space, with a pass from the Cratloe end line, 40-yards backwards, was intercepted by Seán Collins, who zipped the ball into Pádraig Chaplin.
“It was to my bad side but I had the jump on the full-back. I just got the ball and went for goal,” the Cratloe number 19 explained afterwards, as the entire South-East Clare parish turned the county grounds into blue territory.
Although he’ll be forever remembered as the man who shot Cratloe to their first senior championship title, Chaplin would have tapped the ball over the bar if he had looked at the scoreboard, which was behind the goal he was playing into.
“If I’d known we were a point down, I’d have gone for the point. I thought we were two points down so that’s why I went for it,” he said.
The shot, he admits, didn’t threaten to break the net. It just about got over the line, dragging the dreams of an entire parish with it.
“It sort of bounced in front of him (Ger O’Connell) and under his legs. No, it wasn’t a bullet. But it went in and that was the main thing. I didn’t think I’d get the chance. I wasn’t playing in the last few games. But when I got the chance I said I’d go for it. I’ll never forget it. I can’t describe how good it feels to finally get here,” Chaplin added, oblivious to the rain as it sheeted down.
Although the Cratloe AGM heard talk of cutting down on the amount of football the club should participate in this year, ironically the success of the footballer’s definitely seemed to help the senior hurling team.
“We’re having a dream year so far. Intermediate football, U-21 football and now this. Every week we’ve something. The two management teams have worked together, Colm Collins and Mike Deegan. We haven’t burned ourselves out either. If it’s football we train for football, if it’s hurling we train for hurling. It’s just so many lads are brilliant athletes. Conor McGrath, Cathal McInerney, Liam Markham; we never had athletes like that before. They’re one in a million, the three of them,” Chaplin said, perhaps not yet grasping that he is now a man apart in Cratloe himself these days.