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Clonlara’s senior hurling management team (l-r) Michael Stritch (selector), Niall Hogan (coach), Eric Flynn, Alan Murnane, Johnny McGuinness, Ger O’Connell (selector), and team manager Donal Madden. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

‘Ballygunner are a savage team but we’re here on merit too’ – Murnane


There’s nothing like winning with a local team to ingratiate yourself into the community so for Alan Murnane, he couldn’t have chosen a better year to get involved in his new home of Clonlara.
The Parteen native who, two decades on from first lining out between the sticks for the Blue and White, is still Parteen-Meelick’s custodian but now living in Clonlara for the past six years, the parish leap, from a coaching perspective anyway, was perhaps inevitable.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence even that Alan’s introduction has come amidst Clonlara’s greatest ever season to date?
“I’m glad you said it.” He laughs.
“Ah no seriously, I’ve a young family now and that was one of the first things Donal [Madden] said to me was it would be a great way to get to know more people in the community. I think said in an interview after the Kiladangan game that there’s isn’t much there but that people in Clonlara love their hurling so therefore there’s no better way to get to know people.
“Actually after the second or third session, I remember ringing Donal saying that these lads are unreal, just the way they embraced me and made me feel we;come. Especially being from Parteen, only one parish over, that rivalry was never mentioned, it was just Alan Murnane coming in and they welcome me with open arms which is great.
“I’ve met and become friendly with so many people now, even our management meetings are more like friends meeting up and then there’s great craic and banter at the training with the lads so it has just been a great experience.”
His assimilation into the management team has been greatly aided by an unprecedented goalkeeper’s union of former Clonlara and Clare goalkeeper Ger O’Connell as coach, S&C Coach Eric Finn who is Bruff’s flagship goalkeeper and of course Murnane himself who having initially come in as a goalkeeping coach now coordinates the defensive system including puck-out.
Seimi Gully must either feel blessed or overburdened by such a glove full of goalkeepers?
“Seimi has been excellent this year and is well able to look after his own corner I can tell you. “Eric does a lot or work with him while I do the odd session with him too and there’s no-one better than Ger to have as a role model down through the years.
“I suppose there must be something about goalkeepers getting into coaching? Maybe it’s because we get to look at so many games from the goals throughout our careers that we feel we analyse matches. There was actually a question posed by Madden after the county final as there was a photo of myself, Ger [O’Connell] and Eric {Finn] as to which one would you pick to go in goals if you have to choose one?
“I’m very lucky to be involved with such good coaches. Ger is an excellent coach and actually got me involved with the Clare Senior Camogie team a few years back when he was manager while Eric is currently in goals with Bruff who were there-or-thereabout in the Limerick Premier Intermediate Championship and he has been exceptional in keeping the players in great shape throughout what has been a long year.”
So from the outside looking in, what have you seen as the major differences in Clonlara this year?
“I think the existing management sowed the seeds last year as when I came in first, my expectations were far exceeded. The group that’s there now are gentlemen to the core and the work that they’ve been doing with Nollaig for the last two years has really paid dividends along with the minor team of 2018 maturing into leaders.
“The one thing that has really impressed me most is their resilience. I mean we’ve been tested a lot, the Mills battle could have gone either way, then the ‘Bridge came back at us in the second half and we had to go again while against Éire Óg in the quarter-final, we had to hold on. In the county final, Crusheen got it back to three points while we all know how close the Kiladangan match was for a finish so it just seems that winning is a habit too and the trust that we can get out of tricky situations.
“Donal brings it all together then and is just so meticulous in everything he does so there are good people on board and when you have good people and the right attitude the ingredients are there to do something special.
“It doesn’t always work out, I know that only too well from my own time with Parteen but I think after getting over the Mills in the opening round when the crossbar saved us, there has been no looking back ever since as the lads have taken things to a whole new level.
“And that strive for improvement is still ongoing. I mean Clonlara are preparing for a Munster Senior Club Final and we had a meeting last week wondering how we could have managed those nine frantic minutes at the end of the Kiladangan match better.
“So from 1 to 30, they’re just excellent guys and I think everyone has enjoyed the journey this year.”
Of course, the journey is not over yet as the prospect of facing three-in-a-row chasing Ballygunner in the Munster Senior Club Final this Sunday looms inexorably closer.
“To be honest, the pressure is probably all on them as they are looking to win that unprecedented three-in-a-row. The only pressure that we’ll feel is amongst ourselves and Donal will address that straight-away because realistically if we go to Thurles on Sunday and perform to our maximum, that’s all we can control.
“In the last few games we have left a good few scores behind us, especially goal chances so we have room for improvement as well so raising the levels will be our focus but at the same time we’re under no illusions of how good Ballygunner are.
“They are a savage, savage team but so are we. We’re here on merit too and we’re very much looking forward to Sunday.
“It’s been a very special year so far and I’m sure that I’m not in thinking that we just don’t want this to end.”

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