IT was a very emotional day for Kilmurry-Ibrickane selector Gerard McCarthy and he shed a tear or two as followers of the Clare champions celebrated a famous victory at the Gaelic Grounds.
“I lost my only son (David) four years ago in a car accident and today was his birthday and this bunch of players said in the dressing room that they weren’t coming back without this for me. It meant a lot to me. I asked my son this morning if he could swing a point for us any way and I think he did that for me. I found it an emotional day,” he said.
“We came here today knowing what was needed. Last year we were in the same dressing room and we said to the players today that we weren’t coming back in here losing this. This bunch have shown marvellous character. They have been behind in a few big matches during the year. Doonbeg put us to the pin of our collar; we came back, we showed character. In the county final against Kilkee, we conceded two goals and came back again. They came here today with no fear. The name ‘Kerry club’ didn’t mean a thing to these boys. They believed in themselves. It proved one thing and that is that Clare football is not as bad as people make it out to be,” Gerard said.
“The supporters, everybody gave it their all and I have to pay tribute to the fans here today from every club. They all came behind us and joined with our own supporters and I thank everyone for that,” he went on.
McCarthy agreed that Kilmurry have a strong panel. “That was shown again today, bringing on Evan Talty, who scored a fantastic point, Mark McCarthy and Paul O’Dwyer. There are other guys there who were unfortunate not to get a chance but our backs and midfield were doing so well, Vinny Talty and Ski O’Connor, men that have been there all year driving us and getting us where we are. It’s all about the panel. The day of 15 is gone. It’s not who starts anymore. Initially it was hard and players are disappointed when they are dropped but the one thing Micheál McDermott brought to Kilmurry-Ibrickane was a discìpline code and he brought a great intensity into the game, which was never in Kilmurry. He brought a great belief. This man has lost a lot of Munster finals and today he deserves this one. If he is given the commitment and if players believe in themselves like this Kilmurry team, he can do Clare football proud. Where we are placed at the moment is no reflection on Clare football.”
Like all of those involved with the Kilmurry senior squad, he agreed that last year’s final defeat had spurred them on.
“Last year we were heartbroken. We honestly believe we left that game after us. Early in the year we didn’t want to peak when playing the O’Gorman Cup and Cusack Cups. But at the back of our minds all we were thinking of was the championship and getting another opportunity at Munster. We felt that we would be there or there about. Now it’s a dream come true and that panel deserves everything we have got today.”
Was he worried when the ball ended up in the Kilmurry net in the final moments? “My heart fluttered at the goal. You don’t know until the referee makes the final call.”
McCarthy is confident that this Kilmurry side can go further.
“Micheál McDermott said when appointed Clare manager that wherever this team takes us, he will be part of it and we have a chance now to go on. They can believe in themselves. There is a great spirit there, no give in. I saw Peter O’Dwyer in the dressing room at half-time, half concussed with his eye closed, his brother Michael, with blood trickling down his face, the great-hearted Odran, they all wanted to die out there, rather than come home without this title. Who knows what we can achieve now. We have always taken one game at a time and never looked further. We put it up to Ballina in 2004, just a few mishaps and we could have got over the line. We will continue to take it one day at a time,” he said.
Massive work rate sealed win – O’Dwyer
Playing championship games at this time of year is not about free flowing, high-scoring football. Instead, it’s about dirty ball, breaks, tackling and turnovers and generally it is low-scoring games, according to Kilmurry-Ibrickane midfielder, Peter O’Dwyer.
“We worked on our work rate all year and we built on it as the championship went on,” he said. “We weren’t particularly good in the early stages in Clare when we were trying to get a settled team. It’s something you build with time. In the Munster campaign, each game has been particularly harder and we have had to build that intensity and work rate. We knew that these were the best quality opposition we were going to meet this year to date. We knew we had to have a massive work rate if we were going to win. That’s what won the game for us,” he said.
The influential midfielder described his team’s latest victory as “absolutely brilliant”.
“I appreciate it more now because I know how hard it is to get back there. The first time we won it in 2004, I was a bit younger and a bit greener and like all younger fellas, you feel you will get another chance. It took us a long time to get back, which we did last year.”
He admitted, “The massive pain of losing last year and maybe kicking away the game drove us on. It’s been an extremely difficult 12 months and a long time coming around again. Anybody losing a final will tell you that. I really, really appreciate how much it means to the players and supporters just to come back. I am over the moon.”
O’Dwyer said he was concerned at how the opening period of the game went.
“I was hoping that playing against the wind we would shut them down a bit better, maybe frustrate them. What happened in the second 15 minutes of the first half when they kicked a lot of wides under pressure, I expected to happen at the start. They got three quick points early on and it was a worry.”
That said, O’Dwyer is happy with the composure they showed. “The experience came in. A couple of years ago and maybe last year, we might have buckled but guys knuckled down. Those three or four points we got against the wind ultimately won the game for us. They gave us a platform for the second half. They were never going to, bar the goal that wasn’t, put up a big score. Those points were crucial.”
Like others involved with the team, he agreed, “You don’t win games with just 15 players anymore and especially the way the modern game has developed. The corner-forward doesn’t stand at corner-forward any more. You have seen over the last three games the way Johnnie (Daly) and Michael (O’Dwyer) could be up in the half-back line working and tackling. We have taken off guys in the last couple of games from exhaustion and work rate and not for playing bad, which is a great way to be taken off. It’s wonderful to have guys just as good to come in, guys who could on any given day start before them. That’s a tribute to all the people who over the last 15 years have put in massive work at underage, the structures, the facilities. It pays tribute to everyone working for the club,” he said.
He paid tribute those who have worked hard for the club this year. “They can all take a bow today,” he concluded.
Captain thrilled with ‘unbelievable’ win
Describing the occasion as “unbelievable”, Kilmurry-Ibrickane captain Enda Coughlan paid tribute to the players who steered the West Clare club to a second Munster club championship title.
“This feeling is beyond words. I just can’t say enough about the players. Any challenge you put up to them, they will give it everything they have. We had to work hard. We probably rode our luck a little bit. Last year we had all the ball and couldn’t score. This year we got the scores and that’s what matters,” he said as his team mates celebrated.
He stressed, “It’s a great day and a great achievement for the club to win this title for a second time”, adding, “it’s great for Clare football”.
“I thought we had most of the possession and we kept our concentration,” he continued.
What about those nerve-wracking final minutes?
“Well, it was definitely a square ball, there is no doubt about it. We got the ball down the field quickly. We try and play fast football at all times. Just because it’s the first minute or last minute doesn’t matter. It was an awesome score from Evan,” he said of the winning point.
The team captain acknowledged, “We are facing a new challenge now and that is to get to the All-Ireland final. Experience might have caught us in the past. We have played there before. It’s a massive challenge for us again. We will enjoy the Christmas. It will be great to sit down for the Christmas dinner and know that you are still in the championship. We will look at it after Christmas and give it one hell of a shot,” he concluded.