Youth played a huge part in Cratloe’s historic Clare senior hurling championship success, according to team mentor Mike Deegan.
“There is nothing like this. You would just dream of days like this but the young guys who have come onto the team believed that this could happen. They knew that they were good enough and that rubbed off on everyone. It’s just fantastic,” said Deegan.
“In the first 10 minutes we were trying to work our way into the game but you would have to expect that. This is a young team and in their first county final it was going to be like that. Damian (Browne) didn’t have his greatest day but it’s a team game and you cannot be relying on one man. Everybody lifted their heads and kept going,” he said.
He agreed that the first half goals played a huge part in the win. “The first goal was a huge lift to us and then, after Clonlara getting their goal, Conor’s second goal was huge and it was absolutely fantastic. At the time, getting a second goal when we were playing against the breeze was fantastic.”
What was the mood at half-time? “We weren’t down in ourselves. We were confident going out that we had the ability to win the game. We stood up to them in the first half. They were hot favourites and it was a huge psychological thing to stay with them,” he said.
“They got off to a good start and we hung in there. We sat down at half time and said that we had to win the second half. That’s what it had boiled down to.
“Our shooting was off a bit today but you must keep plugging away. When Pádraig got that ball I roared at him to put it over the bar because at that stage we would have taken a draw, there’s no doubt about it. To see it go into the net was fantastic, it was brilliant,” said Deegan.
“There is Munster club action for the next two weeks,” he said, “you can’t really think about that now. Today is all about winning the county championship. We will worry about that next week and we will enjoy this today. Nobody remembers a team beaten in county finals, we said to the lads. It’s the people who win county finals that are remembered.
“There are a lot of good young hurlers in both Cratloe and Clonlara and I hope that this is good for Clare hurling. People say that it’s not great that so-called small clubs are winning this title but I am sure that the big clubs like Sixmilebridge and Clarecastle and Newmarket will come. It will be great for Clare hurling and we will have eight very strong teams competing for the title in the next year or two,” he concluded.
‘A brilliant group’
CRATLOE chairman Pat O’Gorman wore a broad smile as he went around Cusack Park on Sunday to congratulate each of the players and mentors that had just made history for his club.
Coming to the end of his second season as club chairman, it was something he hadn’t expected so soon.
“When I took over as chairman two years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be winning a county championship in two years. I took over from Jack Chaplin, who had been in the position for 14 years and when I went down to John Gleeson’s garage to put a management team together, I didn’t think that it would happen so soon,” the club chairman said as he clutched the championship top scorer award, which had been won by Cratloe’s Damian Browne.
“It’s the happiest day of my life to see men, women and children crying with delight. I am delighted for everyone in the parish, for all who put up bunting, people that mightn’t have much interest in hurling put up flags and on behalf of every person in Cratloe I want to say a warm thank you to that group of players. They are brilliant.”
Adding to the Cratloe chairman’s delight on Sunday was the fact that they had a clean-sweep of the honours on offer as 18-year-old Conor McGrath picked up the man of the match award.
Team trainer Fiach O’Loughlin said he was flabbergasted by the occasion.
“I am stuck for words at the moment. I am so proud of this group. They showed that they are true winners with their ‘never say die’ attitude. The attitude is we will keep working the ball, keep going forward and stay in there to the final whistle.”
Their success in hurling and football shows that “no matter what sport they play, they can win. We got on a roll and the belief is there that we are winners. We took it one game at a time and concentrated on the game in hand and it will be the same now in the Munster club championship. We really can’t wait for that game to come”, the team trainer said.