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The St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield team that won the All-Ireland Club title 25 years ago, on St Patrick’s Day in 1999. Back Row: Ollie Baker, Ciaran O’Neill, Christy O’Connor, Joe Considine, David Hoey, Ken Kennedy, Seanie McMahon. Front Row: Darragh O’Driscoll, Andrew Whelan, Dónal Cahill, Greg Baker, Noel Brodie, James O’Connor, Ger Hoey (RIP), Lorcan Hassett (Captain).

Doora-Barefield party like it’s 1999

A quarter of a century ago the hurlers of St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield reached the mountaintop when winning the All-Ireland senior club title in Croke Park, recalls Joe Ó Muircheartaigh who looks back on the finest hours of the ‘Parish’.

“I think it was great the way we flew up this morning. There was no hullabaloo of coming up last night and meeting people beforehand. We just came into Croke Park, met nobody and then went out and did the job. We can meet everyone now with the cup.”
Lorcan Hassett, 17 March 1999

THE CARPARK in front of the old Grove bar in Roslevan that’s long since been developed is where they met everyone with the Tommy Moore Cup – the back of an articulated truck was their bandstand, as one by one they were introduced.
The Grove, which in those days of a more relaxed interpretation of the licensing laws had a ‘Live at Three’ moniker lived up to its name – it never saw a night like it and St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield were the same.
County, Munster and All-Ireland champions, never mind having a triumvirate of All-Stars for the second time that no other Clare club had managed before, and only Cratloe has managed since.
No wonder the car park and the hastily arranged bandstand were at the epicentre of the hurling world that night 25 years ago as MC Michael ‘Blackie’ O’Connor gave the roll call of All-Ireland champions from Christy O’Connor in goal through to his brother James who was the last man to address the crowd.
“The place was packed,” recalls Christy O’Connor. “We got unbelievable support from around Clare. You felt you were a Clare team. A lot of that was because the three boys were All-Stars and had done so much for Clare.
“In the Munster Final in the Gaelic Grounds, I remember James got a couple of early scores and the roof lifted off the stand. Once a Clare team came out, everyone got behind them. You could feel that.”
“This put St Joseph’s on the map,” remembers manager Michael Clohessy. “I remember there were a lot of journalists getting on to me before the final, and there was one question that would inevitably arise in the conversation.
“It was always the same: ‘Could you tell me where Doora-Barefield is?’ That used to get in my throat. They didn’t know where we were, didn’t really know we existed if you like.”
“That was the last thing Michael said to us going out on the pitch before the final,” recalls Christy. “‘Where is Doora-Barefield – well after today everyone is going to know where Doora-Barefield is’.”
“Everyone knew where Doora-Barefield was after that match,” says Michael. “It was the culmination of everything for Doora-Barefield – to see your home parish win an All-Ireland. It was incredible – when I was hurling we were only a junior club, now we were All-Ireland champions.”
“My stand-out memory was James’ speech at the homecoming,” recalls Christy. “Three years earlier we had gone up to play Clarinbridge in a challenge and they only had 13 players and we had to give them two players.
“Jamesie said that they didn’t show us the level of respect that they should have and that no one was going to disrespect us again.”
And everyone knew where Doora-Barefield was – with some making their way to the carpark that night to see for themselves what the fuss was all about.
As they did, at the back of the bandstand and pub through the darkness they saw the tight Roslevan pitch where it became possible and whatever hurling dreams the ‘Parish’ had took root.
“At that time we had no big floodlights or astroturf pitches,” says Michael. “It was just the one pitch and we were glad to have it and I got lads to put up lights that you’d have outside your house.”
It’s where the team that had won the minor title in 1990 and back-to-back Under 21s in 1993 and ’94 had been cultivated, as had the intermediate championship-winning side of 1993 that contained a sprinkling of all those underage teams and some of their elders.
All that was left was to bring it on to senior, but there were times along the journey when it looked as if it might never happen, despite the quality that had come through, and despite the All-Stars and All-Ireland medals that came to the club post-1995.
In 1994 they got to a county final ahead of schedule and could have won, only to be beaten in the end by a controversial James Healy goal that Doora-Barefield diehards will tell you 30 years on was a stone-cold square ball.
It wasn’t given – Clarecastle won by 1-8 to 0-8 and so began St Josephs’ travails against their neighbours that would last a further five years until they finally bested them when their county, Munster and All-Ireland title were on the line in the 1999 county semi-final in Shannon.
“Before 1998, you could say we were knocking on the door, but you can only knock so much,” says Michael. “That squad could have dissipated and you could lose half of them with disillusionment and so forth if we didn’t get over the line. Given that we lost in ’94 and again in the years after that, lots of clubs could have slipped and felt, ‘Will we ever crack it’. We had to get over the line.”
“We felt that with the team we had, we should be winning,” says Seanie McMahon. “We had a good team and it was frustrating we weren’t able to get it done.
“More than myself, James and Ollie who were playing for the county, there were others who had played senior and we counted 13 that had played with the county up to Under 21,” he remembers.
“I was down in the alleys in Flannan’s on my own one day before the championship started,” recalls Christy, “and was just thinking ‘we have to win it this year, there’s no more messing around, it has to be done’.
“That was me thinking that but there were a lot of other lads thinking the same way. It was time for us. How much more time did we need?”
None, 1998/99 was Doora-Barefield’s time at last.

St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield Manager, Michael Clohessy with players Sean McMahon and Christy O’Connor of the St Joseph’s Doora Barefield Senior Hurling Team of 1998/99 that won the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship Final against Rathnure in Croke Park. Photograph by Natasha Barton

MICHAEL CLOHESSY’S first act when stepping up from selector to manager for the 1998 season was to sit down and pen a few lines. A few thoughts on what would be required – of himself, but also the players and what could make the difference.
“I wrote to players and emphasised the significance of the 1998 season for us,” he recalls.
“I can’t remember getting any letter,” admits Seanie, a recollection that tallies with Christy’s memories from the earliest days of the new regime headed up by Michael that included Louis Mulqueen, Tommy Duggan and Fergie McDonagh.
“I think I’d remember if I got one,” says Christy, but still, Michael remembers it clearly, both the tone and importance of his few words. “It was asking for the extra commitment,” he says. “It was 40 years since 1958 when St Joseph’s last won the championship.
“It was to remind them of those 40 years and the extra push that was needed, because we weren’t far off it. “It was to get across the line — it was to get that extra five per cent and it’s a big thing,” he adds.
Maybe it was that Seanie and Christy were among a select few that didn’t need it written down and spelled out – they lived the game anyway, as many more with them, but Michael’s mission was to bring everyone.
“We were only mad for road at that stage,” says Seanie. “There was a really good vibe in the squad all year. You could see what it meant to people.”
“They were a unique bunch,” says Michael. “Everyone bought into it. If lads were away they’d travel back for training mid-week. There was no slackening because most of that group had grown up together, were good friends and would go into the trenches with each other.”
It was never more apparent than the county semi-final against 1996 Clare and Munster champions Wolfe Tones in Sixmilebridge – a game for which James O’Connor cut short his honeymoon to be present.
“We knew he was coming but not sure if he’d make the training session in Roslevan before the game,” recalls Christy. “He came straight from the plane and the roof nearly lifted off the dressing room when he came in the door. There was that sense of ‘we’re not letting anything get in our way’. It showed the commitment he had.”
The 0-12 to 0-8 win over the Shannon men was more dominant than the scoreline suggested as James O’Connor top-scored with 0-5, with the 3-9 to 2-7 win over Kilmaley in the county final the following week something similar, even if it was less than spectacular.
“It was a complete anti-climax,” recalls Christy. “We were in the dressing room afterwards thinking ‘Is this what it’s like to win a county final’. It was all just pure pressure. We were under so much pressure.”
“It was more relief than any great sense of joy,” says Seanie, “but the whole thing kicked off after that, because we had Mount Sion in the Munster semi-final to look forward to.”
“We didn’t play too great in the county final,” says Michael, “but once we got that monkey off our back and went into Munster we were a different team.”
“We trained on the Wednesday after the county final,” says Christy, “and again in Cusack Park on the Saturday and James came up with a speech saying ‘if we win tomorrow, we’ll win the All-Ireland Club’. I remember thinking, ‘What planet is that fella on’.”
“It was below in Fraher Field and they had a really good team, with six or seven of the Waterford team, but we beat them well,” says Michael.
“It was the quality of the hurling, you could see that lads had a big weight that had been lifted. They were free.
“And it was the commitment because what sticks out is Noel Brodie hitting one of their big guys with a rap of a shoulder. I don’t know who it was, but it was a huge hit,” he adds.
“It was Tony Browne,” says Seanie, “and it set the tone. He bowled him over, as only Brodie can. They were complacent and weren’t ready for us and we were going down to have a right cut at it.
“It was the height of the Clare/Waterford rivalry. They had Browne, Ken McGrath, Brian Greene, Brian Flannery, Micheal White and Anthony Kirwan. There was a great sense of freedom about us that day and before we knew it we were in the Munster final.”
“It was the best performance we ever put on and you could have excused them if they didn’t produce that,” says Michael. “Everyone had confidence in Clare hurling at the time, because as Dalo said ‘we were no longer the whipping boys’.”
“It was after the (1-13 to 0-7) win,” says Christy, “I was thinking ‘well James was right. We were two games from Croke Park, why can’t we do this’.”

TWO NIGHTS before the Munster final the All-Stars were handed out in the Burlington Hotel. It meant a late night for James O’Connor, Ollie Baker and Seanie McMahon as they collected their gongs at the black-tie event, but they made sure to finish early enough to be back home early the following morning.
“It was early in the morning,” recalls Christy, “and we had a puck around in Clarecastle, but they were there”.
“We were always going to be there,” says Seanie, “because all your best friends are playing for the club and you don’t want to be letting anyone down.
“And the reality of it as well was that not too long before this we were playing intermediate hurling and now we were in a Munster final and two games away from Croke Park on St Patrick’s day. We never dreamt of that. We were only mad keen to grab onto that.”
The actions of St Josephs’ great triumvirate before the game spoke volumes and created headlines, but so did their performances the following day. Baker was named man-of-the-match; O’Connor had 0-5 on the board inside 11 minutes, while at the back McMahon did more than anyone else to ensure that Toomevara were restricted to one point from play as the Munster title came back to the Parish on the back of a 0-12 to 0-8 win.
“The three lads provided great leadership for the whole thing,” says Michael, “but apart from James, Ollie and Sean, we had huge leaders behind the scene in Ger Hoey, Ciarán O’Neill and captain Lorcan Hassett. They were huge men in the back ground, they really drove it on.
“They were there all the time. Ger Hoey was a serious leader, so too Ciarán and Lorcan – real leaders in the dressing room and lads looked up to them because they would go to the well and go to the trenches with you, big time.”
“Ger and Ciarán were the real spiritual leaders of the thing,” says Seanie. “They had great experience, they were very good players, but were really committed and were vocal and they drove the thing. We were really following them.
“Everyone played their part and there were a lot of leaders but they were the two big leaders for us – the older guys and whenever they spoke you listened and they led by example.
“It’s easier to be an older and more experienced player and preach, but they didn’t. Nobody trained harder than them, nobody trained more than them, and they delivered on the field as well. They were the key figures on the team.”
It was never more pronounced than it was in the All-Ireland semi-final – O’Neill grabbed a crucial goal before half-time, while Hoey took centre stage a few minutes later, as Christy recalls.
“We were six up after playing with a really strong breeze and Ger said ‘guaranteed this game is going to be level with 15 minutes to go and then we’ll see who the real men are’.
“Ger was right – it was level and it was going to take a savage effort. They came back at us but we just kicked on. It really was the ‘final’. We weren’t thinking of it like that but Athenry were a serious team and the physical and mental strength we had to show that day was huge.”
No more than for Christy himself – he could have been spooked by the poor concession of a goal in the first half, when batting Eugene Cloonan’s delivery into the path of Cathal Moran who goaled, but instead it was the making of him when it mattered.
“It was very tight and Christy made that save,” remembers Seanie. “It was literally the last puck of the ball. They were trying to equalise and whatever way it happened – Brendan Keogh was inside the 21 all on his own after they mishit a shot. It landed in his hand.”
“When Brendan Keogh got the ball,” says Christy. “I do remember thinking ‘Whatever I have to do to stop this ball, I have to do it’.”
He’d done it a few years previously when playing a Fitzgibbon Cup game for UCG, but there were only a handful looking on – this time there were over 9,000 in Semple Stadium,
“I threw myself at it,” he recalls. “I wasn’t wearing a helmet and was thinking ‘if this hits me in the face, I just have to take it’. I remember that going through my head.
“I actually stopped it with my hurley and it hit the bos of my hurley, kicked off it and literally went behind me and it was a real sense of terror because it wasn’t cleared yet.
“Was it Ger or David took it off the line, it was shoved out to the side and the referee blew the final whistle. It was crazy.”
And it was the All-Ireland. Athenry were the team – they’d beaten Wolfe Tones in the ’97 and would bounce back to beat St Joseph’s in 2000, but once they were edged 1-13 to 1-12 in this semi-final, a Rathnure team that had endured four All-Ireland Club final losses already, weren’t about to spoil another Clare coronation.
“A gulf in class was anticipated,” mused Liam Horan in The Irish Independent, “but nothing as telling as the 12-point margin which separated the sides”.
There was a record All-Ireland club final crowd of 40,106 to see it – this was after there were over 10,000 at both the county and Munster finals – as captain Lorcan Hassett led from the front with 1-5 from play, with David Hoey the other standout in a comprehensive 2-14 to 0-8 win.
“This is very, very special,” gushed James O’Connor afterwards. “All of us literally grew up together. I mean, ten of this team won minor and under 21 titles together. I can look out my back window and see Dónal Cahill’s house and Sean McMahon’s too. We’re almost next door to Ciarán O’Neill.
“You know for people who brought us to matches in the backs of their cars when we were kids. To see them here with tears in their eyes, it’s unbelievable.”
Jamesie’s was the last word in Croke Park – fitting as he was the first to tell them it would happen as they prepared for a first-ever Munster club game to take on Mount Sion in Fraher Field.
The view from the mountaintop.
And it’s why there was such a big crowd back at the Grove, and why it was ‘Live at Three’, and well after that.

St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield
Christy O’Connor, Ger Hoey, Dónal Cahill, Ken Kennedy, Darragh O’Driscoll, Sean McMahon, David Hoey, Ollie Baker, Joe Considine, James O’Connor, Noel Brodie, Lorcan Hassett, Greg Baker, Ciarán O’Neill, Andrew Whelan. Subs Colm Mullen for Greg Baker, Fergal O’Sullivan for Considine.

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