IN any discussion about Kilmurry-Ibrickane football, the name of Patrick Murrihy will come into the conversation. The majority of the current panel will claim it was Patrick, who first coached them. Currently chairman of the Kilmurry-Ibrickane minor club, he continues to be one of the leading figures in driving the club’s coaching programme.
Speaking to Patrick ahead of next week’s All-Ireland final, he maintains that the coaching policy operated by the club and the securing of their own headquarters have played vital roles in the club’s progress to the position where they are now one step away from being crowned All-Ireland senior champions.
“Around the end of the ’80s and early ’90s, the club purchased land and with the field being developed, it was attractive for young fellas to be playing. It was the first time that we ever had a home of our own. The coaching was a bit alien to all of us but we said if we were going to do it, we would do it right,” Patrick explained.
“Coaching courses were taken and it kicked off from there. A big help to us also were the national schools and the support we got when we sent in coaches. Going into the clubs helped us to identify future players for the school at a very young age. Getting them at five and six was starting early and by the time they came to the club scene at eight and nine, they had a lot done in learning the basic skills. That would not have been successful without the support of all the schools. That involvement with the schools continues right to the present day,” Patrick added.
He is worried about the numbers game. “Like all clubs on the western seaboard, the biggest challenge we face at the moment is to remain competitive. We had numbers back in the ’80s and ’90s and everyone wanted to play. We brought in coaches from outside to train our coaches. Pat O’Shea was here a few times and, of course, Patrick O’Dwyer was making huge impressions and that’s very evident when you see our teams play,” he said.
He explained that the club developed an overall coaching style. “Our big mantra is to develop the skills and concentrate on that up to 14 years of age. Guys develop bad habits at a young age and an important part of coaching is to try and get the bad habits out of them. It’s next to impossible to do that if they have these habits at 17 and 18, so it’s important to get coaching early. We think we might be doing something right and our coaching policy has stood us well,” he said.
“There is no doubt but getting our own pitch was huge for the club. We had nowhere before that. We didn’t know what a Cusack Cup game was at home. It was in 1992 that we had our first cup game in our own parish and that was a big thing. It brought a sense of pride to the place. Maybe that’s what was missing in the decades before that,” Patrick commented.
He also believes that the Féile success had a huge influence in the success the club is currently enjoying. “The remarkable thing is that the year prior to that success, Féile was in Clare and we had what I believed was a great team but we got beaten by Salthill who won out the Division 1 title. From that team, there is Enda Coughlan, Mark Killeen and Evan Talty playing next week. The biggest supply of players has come from those two Féile teams.”
Murrihy believes there is a huge passion for the game of football in the parish. “These players have it and that is a major reason why they are all involved. It’s a great way to have it with so many players involved as mentors,” he said.
When did thoughts of winning the All-Ireland title first come to mind? “The Kilrush team of the ’70s did everything but win a championship. They deserved one. You had Doonbeg making the breakthrough, while Kilkee did everything but win a Munster title. Doonbeg winning the title in ’98 was a great day for Clare.
“I felt that given the coaching that was going on in our club, that our turn would come. We came within a few points of Nemo here at home in 2002 and we felt that we were capable of winning Munster. There were a lot of young fellas in the panel in 2004 and they all matured and maturity is something that has to happen over a period of time. We are at the stage now where our younger players have matured nicely and that was evident this year and played a part in helping us to bounce back after the disappointment of losing the Munster final last year,” he said.
The Kilmurry official believes Clare never built on their Munster success in 1992.
“There seems to be a sense of shock and disbelief around at the moment. Clare football needs a victory whether it be Kilmurry or Doonbeg or Kilrush or whoever. There has been so much negativity in relation to inter-county football over the last few years. An All-Ireland win would be a massive boost right now and fortunately for Kilmurry, we are in the position to be challenging for the title. I would hope that other clubs in Clare would take confidence from where we are and hopefully also that this will transfer to the inter-county scene,” he added.
The club championship has developed into a Roy of the Rovers stuff.
“Who would have predicted a final between Clare and Antrim champions given where both counties stand on the ladder. It’s a bit like the FA Cup, where the non-league team gets to the final. There is a touch of romance to it against the big clubs like Kilmacud and Crossmaglen. We are going there with a very definite chance and while being there is great, it is all about taking home the big one. It’s a priority now and the county needs it,” he concluded.
Seeds of success took root in 2000 Féile final
There is general agreement within the barony of Kilmurry-Ibrickane that the winning of a national Féile football title in 2000 has had a huge influence in the success the club is now enjoying at senior level.
“At least six of that team will play in next week’s final but what was particularly historic about that success was that, geographically, every corner in the parish from Dunsallagh to Tiermana and from Doolough to Tromera West, was represented.
“When we returned home with the title, there were bonfires in every townland which was unique and hopefully that will be repeated next week,” commented Martin Lynch, manager of that team.
At the recent annual general meeting of the minor club, Martin stepped down from the post of chairman which he had filled for the past four years and he returned to the post of vice-chairman which he previously held in the early part of the last decade.
Martin’s recollection of that national Féile final in Croke Park is as vivid as if it was only played yesterday.
“David Killeen kept us in the game in the first half with a brilliant goal and in the second half, we had excellent goals from Keith King and Noel Downes. We beat Blessington in the final having accounted for Castleblaney in the semi-final,” said Martin.
“Martin Hanrahan, the club’s PRO at the time, put a poem together recording the achievements of the Flying 14s of 2000 and that poem is framed and in my sitting room,” he added.
The management team in 2000 with Martin were Patrick Murrihy and Danny Coughlan, Kevin Killeen, Patrick “Butcher” McCarthy, Paul Hickey and James Murrihy while the team captain was Andrew Darcy.
According to Martin, one of his main targets over the past decade, as an officer of the minor club, has been to get senior players involved in coaching the young lads.
“Many of the seniors unselfishly give their time to coaching the U-8s and U- 10s. Last year, seniors Enda Coughlan, Shane and Darren Hickey and Noel Downes were involved with the minors who were managed by Brian Cooney. Brendan O’Neill and Pat Sexton were involved with the U-16s,” he said.
How come Kilmurry is so successful at getting adult players involved with the coaching of underage teams?
“Players can see what it means to the young lads for them to be involved, while it also allows the seniors the opportunity to go back to the national schools and see the young talent coming through. Our senior players are very level headed lads and they can see that they have an input into schooling the young fellas. They are role models and a great example of this is the senior captain Enda Coughlan, in the way he carries himself on and off the field,” replied Martin.
Lynch paid particular tribute to Michael Considine, now the club secretary, for the work he has done in the schools in the past year and for getting a structure in place for the U-6 and U-8s every Friday evening.
“He has a huge amount of the players helping out and there are at least 20 volunteers on an ongoing basis. The support of the schools is vital as is getting the parents involved,” he argued.
Dermot Coughlan’s work with the U-10’s in recent years also came in for much praise from Martin. Coughlan who is coaching intermediate side Clondegad will manage the Kilmurry U-12s this year.
He also praised the work of Partick Murrihy in the club whom he described as “the father figure to most of the current players”.
What does the future hold for Kilmurry-Ibrickane at senior level ? “We will be the targets for all other clubs in the county come the new season but it’s a great position to be in and one that any club would love to have. I can’t see the pressure getting to these players,” he replied
“There is huge support for us and this is most encouraging and can only help. Hopefully there will be bonfires in all corners of the parish after next week’s final, just as there was in 2000 after the U-14 success,” he concluded.
A lifetime leading all the way to Croke Park
John Daly has seen good times and bad times with Kilmurry-Ibrickane GAA. Involved with the club since his juvenile days, he has served as a player and official, winning championships and helping to steer teams to success, while devoting many years to the running of the club in a variety of positions. In all that time, he has seen great changes.
While the standard of play in the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Tír Chonail Gaels wasn’t the most impressive, it was one of the most memorable days of this campaign for John and it wasn’t to do with the standard of play.
“I met a few people at that game that I hadn’t seen since 1957 and we all cried. Emigration in the ’50s was a major issue. I remember winning a Minor B Championship against Kilnaboy. We played the game in Kilfenora with a man called Pappy Morgan refereeing it. The following day, there was a group of those players on the train on the West Clare railway heading for London and some of them never set foot in Ireland again. A whole generation of people went in the ’50s,” John said.
“The ’60s changed things because we got Shannon airport and we got a couple of great companies. I have to give great credit to De Beers, an outstanding company. Emigration has always been the big thing and I am not just talking about people who had to go overseas.”
John was secretary when the club was re-organised in the late ’50s and into the ’60s and won a senior championship medal with the club in 1963.
“There was only a phone in the village of Quilty and you had to queue up to use it. I had to write to all of the players who were away and we had players in Donegal, Dublin, Wicklow and Offaly, to inform them of matches. Now I see that in a matter of seconds, they can all receive a text message giving them details of training. It has changed remarkably.”
“There was literally no club in the parish in the ‘50s,” he said. “There was a junior club in Quilty and an intermediate club in Mullagh and that switched around the following year. We would be playing one Sunday with the Quilty junior team and the next Sunday with an intermediate team from Mullagh. Then there was a junior B team in Freyhane. It was all mixed up and on top of that, you had clubs coming in on top of us, some going to Miltown and others to Doonbeg. There was a movement towards doing something for ourselves and we started off and went junior, thinking we had no business going senior. We got hammered in a controversial final by Coolmeen and we said we won’t stay down there anymore, so we moved up to senior and we built it from there.”
“We were reasonably successful with championships in ’63 and ’66 but it all died away again. We were lucky enough that time that coaching started under Tony Power and Sonny Casey and a great man who came here as a curate, Fr Tuohy. He is still a great man with us in the club. There was an awful lot of coaching done and that coaching tradition has lasted right through to the present day. There is an amount of coaching going on,” John explained.
“In the ’80s, Patrick O’Dwyer and myself decided that we would have to promote coaching. We went off for two weekends at our own expense to Carrig na bFear to coaching courses under Fr McCarthy, Mickey Ned Sullivan, Eamonn Young and a whole lot of them. It completely broadened our horizons as to what should be done.
“I grew up in an era where there were two footballs for every match if you could afford them. One was steeped in a barrel of water and the other one was dry. Before a big game like a county semi-final or final, you got no football at all for a week in the hope that you would be hungry for it. It was the opposite to what you should be doing, as you should play as much ball as you could.
“In recent years, we have been prepared to pay people to go into the schools to do coaching. We get huge co-operation from all the schools in the parish and that is the key to it. If you don’t have that kind of co-operation, it hurts and you just don’t get the work done. The great thing about the school is that you get the school discipline with it,” said John.
“From Kilmurry down to Clonahinchy and into Quilty has always been mad football. There were always good footballers coming out of the other end of the parish, Mount Callan, Coore, Doolough, Scropul, Annagh but the emphasis wasn’t placed there. It was a lot easier to collect a football team around here rather than go the 12 miles to Mount Callan to collect a few more players. They always felt a little bit on the outside but they have all come into it now.
“It intrigued me in London to see fellas that rarely, if ever, go to football matches, there with Kilmurry colours and supporting the team. It brings in the whole parish,” said John, whose son, Johnny, is a key member of the forward line.
He, like other club members, spoke of the importance of getting a pitch.
“One of the things that happens when you get your own pitch is that you have the spaces, the wings and the corners. Before that, we were only playing in corners of the field and we hadn’t an idea of how wing and corner play should be.”
The current Kilmurry squad has no fears about their game, he said.
“We are lucky to have Micheal McDermott as he has the knack of placing in front of them what is required in every match. Immediately after the final whistle following the Portlaoise game, he came into the dressing room where there were lads cheering and he stressed that we have won nothing.
“He is a tremendous motivator and he has kept their heads right for every game. He does tremendous background work on all teams and he leaves no stone unturned. He has a professional approach towards this, bringing in different people to conduct training sessions. The players have learned from all of them,” John added.
Kilmurry’s success will intensify the rivalry in the county, he believes. “It will have clubs looking on and saying that if they put the effort in, they can be in Croke Park as well. Doonbeg are well capable of going to Croke Park. We are at the top now and, no doubt, but we will go back down again.
“What has stood to us over the past 10 years is the experience gained playing in Munster championships. I have been a regular goer to Croke Park since 1959 and the chat coming home would turn to whether or not we would ever see a Clare team there. We eventually did. And we had club hurling teams go there and win.”
“The club championship brings the GAA right down to the grassroots level where we all started, small townlands that were never heard of will be represented in Croke Park on a great occasion. And there is great credit due to St Gall’s also, an outstanding hurling and football club. This brings a huge focus on the parish also. It’s a fantastic sales pitch for anyone involved in tourism,” according to John
Before concluding he sounded a note of warning.
“One of the biggest worries I have concerns the job situation. During the Celtic tiger, they all had jobs and money and it was easy to keep lads at home. The worry now is that at the minute America or Australia starts to improve they will be gone. All the clubs in West Clare from Loop Head up to Kilfenora suffer from emigration. That will always be a problem,” he said.