Most people involved in sport will tell you that there is no such thing as a certainty, but in the case of Denis Hynes that is not necessarily true.
If there is something positive happening for soccer in Clare, you can take it as read that the Ennistymon man will be involved in some capacity.
Hynes was appointed as the full time FAI Devlopment Officer in Clare in 2008, and in that time he has played a key role in taking the standard of the game in the county to the next level.
His passion for the game coupled with his easy-going demeanour are the perfect combination for someone fostering the Clare soccer stars of the future, while his standing in the game in the county makes him a respected coach for the flagship Oscar Traynor side.
It also means that when Clare take to the field on Saturday for their Oscar Traynor showdown with Wexford, Hynes will know what each player can bring to the table as they make their bid for the last four.
“Clare blood runs through me as much as Colm Collins or Brian Lohan so anything I can do to help with the county, you are always willing to do your little bit. It is good to have the experience of having seen some of these players from their underage days because it means you know what you are dealing with. It is an easy and enjoyable position to be in” he noted.
After winning back to back titles, 2019 saw Clare relinquish their grip on the Oscar Traynor trophy. It has not been an easy road back to the knockout stages, with an opening round loss to Limerick leaving Clare in must win territory if they were to stay in contention. They responded brilliantly to that challenge, with wins over Kerry and the Desmond League to seal a home draw in the quarter-final. Hynes admits that resilience is a huge positive, but also feels that players not having game in recent weeks leaves them a bit uncertain as to where they stand in terms of form.
“For spells against Limerick after we went 1-0 up, we should have got the second and put them away. The reaction of the lads against Kerry at home to get that win was great, and we got better as we went along against the Desmond League. We went behind and when we were facing a bit of adversity, you really see what it means to players and this bunch has responded to every challenge that has been put in front of them. After losing the first game, we are delighted to have regrouped and now be at home in a quarter-final. It is like a brand new competition now and everything starts afresh. We have always had a long standing agreement with the players and the clubs in Clare that we don’t go over the top in terms of preparations. We prefer them to be with their clubs and we trust the clubs to keep the standards high. They generally have a game every week but unfortunately with the weather being so bad over the last while, it has impacted on that a bit so that might be a small concern. We might be a bit rusty but we had a good run out on Sunday morning in a friendly game and we have two training sessions leading up to the game to work on being ready. Circumstances can change throughout the competition. Some players can be injured or unavailable at the start and then a few months later they are back to you fully fresh and ready to go. We have had a look at a few new lads too, and we are getting to the stage now where we have to introduce some younger lads along with more experienced players” he said.
Those newer players include Clare senior football star Cian O’Dea along with a host of others, with Kilrush Rangers clubman and former Clare minor footballer Ciaran O’Donoghue being among the latest call ups to the panel. Hynes says the standard of player coming through the system is one of the pleasing aspects of recent years.
“The Oscar Traynor competition is the most high profile soccer event that a Clare player can take part in. Outside of that, you go progress to the League of Ireland. Most young lads coming through have a pedigree of playing soccer and maybe in previous generations, that wasn’t always the case. You have the likes of Cian O’Dea playing with us and it is great to see that cooperation now amongst all the sports at adult level. It allows the players, within reason, that if they want to come and play Oscar Traynor, it is available to them and it is not so much of an issue as it might have been in the past. You would like as many Clare clubs as possible to be progressing in the FAI and Munster Junior Cups to keep that sharpness and the high level. The calibre of young lads we have coming through and the standard they operate at means that they are on other county panels and are keeping themselves in brilliant shape, and the Desmond League game was a testament to that. We went into that game with two 18-year-olds in the middle of the pitch and you just would not have had the trust to do that in other years” he stated.
It is set to be a busy weekend for Clare soccer, with the U-13 side travelling to Mullingar for the SFAI Finals weekend. Hynes feels having Clare teams involved at that level has a positive impact on a number of levels.
He said: “It is great to have that profile. The U-13’s going to Mullingar this weekend have an All-Ireland final in their heads, their parents have an All-Ireland final in their heads, and that all cements an interest and a drive to stick at the sport. At the top end with the Oscar Traynors, we have Eoin Hayes and Stephen Kelly who are lining out for Ireland, we have Cian McDonough on the U-18 squad and we might have another player close to that again this year so all those little successes keep the profile raised and keep the game in player’s heads. We have Maurice Nugent from Clare captaining Galway United in the League of Ireland Premier Division and Joe Collins, who won an Oscar Traynor with us, is also there. There are pathways all over the place that have the ability and the attitude to push on further”.
Hynes will be hoping to play a part in guiding Clare back to the decider, with their last appearance coming when he was also involved as coach under then manager Donie Garrihy. Garrihy is still on the backroom team, but this time it is Shane Keegan in charge with the Laois native in his second term as manager. Hynes feels having someone with his experience has added another layer to the squad.
“It sends a message to the players that we have gone outside the county and gone for someone with Airtricity League experience. He is with Dundalk FC at the moment so it means that players will quickly figure out that if they do their stuff, you never know where it could lead. Shane has been excellent and is putting in a huge effort. When a goal goes in for Clare, Shane Keegan jumps as high as any Clare man so we lucky to have him. It would be great for everyone involved if we could get a good Clare crowd here on Saturday and progress to the last four. We have home advantage and hopefully we can capitalise on that with a good early start and put the pressure on them straight away” he concluded.