Three-hundred people attended a gala function at the Auburn Lodge Hotel last Sunday night when the members of the Clare minor hurling team that won the provincial title last July were presented with their medals.
Clare GAA chairman Michael O’Neill told the players that they, combined with the U-21s of last year “are the future of Clare hurling”.
“We are not too far away from a senior All-Ireland title. We will win one in the not-too-distant future. There is a lot of work going in at development level, in the game and in facilities, which will bring success at different levels. We have the management and the clubs and I have no doubt that we will have senior wins,” he said.
Sean Walsh, chairman of the Munster GAA Council, said, “This is a special night for Clare and particularly for the players.” A Kerry minor selector for five years, the provincial council official told the players that the friendships they made this year would last a lifetime. He went on to thank all the patrons who came to the games. “We are in difficult times and it behoves us all to get a number of things right and to make sure that we have the structures right to allow the parents and all who want to come to our games to do so.”
Joint manager Donal Moloney said that while the past year was a forgettable year, for many for them it had been unforgettable. “These lads achieved so much on and off the field and did so with style and class. We could dwell on the All-Ireland final and we could continue crying over the fact that we probably should have closed the deal. There isn’t a day goes by without thinking of that and maybe we left it behind us but to dwell on that would do a severe injustice to what these lads have accomplished in 2010,” he said.
“Humility and a willingness to learn were the very cornerstones of everything we set about and these guys devoured information. They feared no one. When we look at the year and the highlights, people will expect us to say the All-Ireland final and the Munster final and yes, these were highlights. The Munster final was a bit of an anti-climax as it didn’t go down to the wire as we expected,” he said.
“The real highlight was on May 4 in Cusack Park, which will never be forgotton. Every great journey has to begin with a significant step. Tipperary have been one of our great rivals.
“They bring out the best and the worst in us. We have envied them over the years. We saw the best of this bunch in the second half that day,” he said, before paying tribute to his fellow backroom team members and to the county board who “delivered everything we asked.”
According to joint manager Gerry O’Connor, “The start was when we met in Clarecastle, a group of 30 plus. We asked them to commit to Clare for one year and it worked. There was a bond formed that is unbreakable.”
The Éire Óg clubman went on to recall the journey from Dublin City University to Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, one of the most emotional five minutes of their lives. “That five minutes epitomised everything about the journey of the last 10 months. We had become Team Clare, as we had asked in Clarecastle. We will never forget 2010.”
He paid tribute to the supporters and had a special word for the parents.
“We have got to be innovative now more than ever. The biggest challenge facing you now is not Cork, Tipperary or Kilkenny, It’s the economic situation we find ourselves in,” he said.
“The much-maligned county board has come in for a lot of criticism over the years but I have to say to Michael and Pat and to our sponsor, Pat O’Donnell, anything we asked for, we received.”
Team captain Paul Flanagan said it was a massive honour to have been captain before thanking the players, the management and the county board for a special year. “We all bought into it. The first game didn’t go our way. We knew we were a strong team and it came down to the work we put in and it paid off in the end. The Munster final was a game we were waiting for and we were delighted to get Waterford,” he said.
Master of ceremonies for the evening was RTÉ’s Marty Morrissey.
For the record the members of the Munster minor hurling championship winning panel in 2010 who were presented with their medals by Ger Loughnane are: Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones); Alan Mulready, Jamie Shanahan, Kevin Lynch, Noel Purcell, Pa Sheehan, Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); Cathal Doohan, Tony Kelly, Paul Flanagan, Captain (Ballyea); Cathal Malone (Ennistymon); Colm Galvin, Cathal O’Connell (Clonlara); Daire Keane, Michael O’Neill (Kilmaley); Damian Lafferty, Haulie Vaughan, Niall Arthur (Inagh-Kilnamona); Darragh Corry, David McInerney (Tulla); Davy O’Halloran (Éire Óg); Enda Boyce, Paudge Collins (Cratloe); Frank Melody, Niall Woods (Newmarket); Jarlath Colleran, Niall De Loughrey (Doora-Barefield); Martin Moroney (Parteen); Ronan Taaffe (Tubber); Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle) and Tomas McNamara (Whitegate).
The team mentors were Donal Moloney (Scariff) and Gerry O’Connor (Éire Óg); joint managers, Paul Kinnerk (Monaleen, Limerick) Jimmy Browne (Clonlara) and Eamonn Fennessy (Sixmilebridge), together with physiotherapist Diarmuid Horgan and Dr Padraic Quinn.