Clooney-Quin ready to seize their moment
By John Harrington
Today will be one of those special days that will bond the already tight community of Clooney-Quin even closer together.
The pupils of Quin-Dangan and Clooney National Schools will travel to the Clooney-Quin GAA grounds where they’ll meet the club’s senior hurlers to wish them well in the Clare County Hurling Final against Sixmilebridge on Sunday.
The kids will be inspired and the players will have their hearts warmed by the experience, and it’s easy to believe that the positive vibes generated will put even more pep in everyone’s step for the big match.
Clooney-Quin have been waiting a long time for an occasion like this to come around.
It’s 73 years since they last contested a County Senior Hurling Final and 75 years since they won one, so it’s no surprise the community has been energised to the extent it has.
Fergal Lynch makes no bones about just how much this all means to him.
The Clooney-Quin captain and former Clare senior star will be 35 in two weeks’ time and has been playing senior hurling with the club since he was a 16.
His family has a long and proud association with the club and he’s also principal of Quin-Dangan National School so he really couldn’t be any more rooted in his community.
“Of course it means a lot,” he told GAA.ie. “This is where I began hurling. My father and mother gave me a hurley when I was the age of three or four years of age.
“I started out playing with the club and it's the club that I finished with. Look it, my Grandfather, my father, my uncles, they all played for the club.
“And I suppose it's an emotional time for us to get to where we've gotten to.
“It's also a very important time for the younger generation to grasp it with two hands and enjoy it and learn from it and hopefully it will also breed new hurlers for the future.
“There's a massive buzz in the school. We had a colours day today now and the amount of work the kids are putting in behind the scenes is phenomenal.”
Clooney-Quin have plenty of youth in their community to inspire – this year they had more children enrolled in their Cúl Camps than any other club in the county.
They've benefited from an influx of new families into the area in recent years who have been attracted by the combination of a living in a picturesque rural area that’s within a handy commute of Limerick, Shannon, and Ennis.
According to club chairman, Tony Duggan, the glowing reputation of both National Schools is also a major reason why more and more young families are settling in Clooney-Quin.
Sport is a major part of the syllabus in both schools, and that ethos has been harnessed by the club where hard work at underage level is bearing a lot of fruit.
The interesting thing about Clooney-Quin’s progress to Sunday’s Final though is that they’re not one of those teams like 2016 Champions Ballyea who have burst from the pack thanks to the emergence of a young generation of talented hurlers.
Instead, many of their best players have been toiling at the coal-face of Clare club hurling for over a decade and were part of the panel that won the Clare and Munster Intermediate Championships in 2006.
“If you look at the team that's there at the moment we have Conor Harrison, Donnacha Murphy, myself, Killian Duggan, and Shane McNamara who all played in the 2006 Munster Club Intermediate Final against Bishopstown,” says Lynch.
“So, you're talking about five or six players of the starting 15 who have been playing at least that length of time and are still at it and still going strong.
“Some of them are still in their late twenties and unfortunately myself and Conor are coming into our mid to late thirties.
“I suppose they have a good few years ahead of them whereas we're coming to the end of our tether.
“Thankfully the opportunity has come for us now this Sunday and we're hopefully going to take it with two hands.”
Clooney-Quin’s qualification for Sunday’s County Final isn’t a complete bolt from the blue.
Since winning promotion to the senior grade in 2006 they’ve been consistently competitive and reached a number of quarter-finals, but came up just short on a couple of occasions.
“We always believed that we were good enough to compete with the best teams,” says Lynch. “The Clare championship is probably one of the toughest championships around.
“I've been involved in the Galway championship at the moment with Craughwell (as a coach) and you can see that the Clare championship is a bit more cut-throat because there isn't much room for error.
“We were always well able to compete with the bigger teams, but we were never able to push on and beat them on the day. We were always on the wrong side of a narrow defeat.
“So, I suppose it's something that we have worked on ourselves as players in training, that we have pushed that extra bit of fitness and hurling into us and a lot more challenge matches with high-quality teams. That seems to have stood to us so far this year.”
They’ll go into Sunday’s Final as underdogs against a neighbouring Sixmilebridge side that have traditionally been the princes to Clooney-Quin’s paupers.
The 'Bridge have won 12 county titles, three Munster titles and one All-Ireland title compared to Clooney-Quin’s solitary senior championship which was won way back in 1942.
The bookies seem to think this will be a straight-forward enough contest – they make Sixmilebridge 1/6 favourites – but Lynch is adamant that Clooney-Quin are in it to win it.
“Every one of the players from one to 28 on the panel have a vested interested in this,” he says.
“We started out on the sixth of January back in the Fair Green running hard and we were all there together.
“We've soldiered hard together and we've been through a lot of bad times over the last couple of years. The good times have come, we've enjoyed those together, and there is good togetherness.
“Every one of the guys are down to earth and really good club-men. We're not there to make up the numbers, even if a lot of people in Clare seem to be thinking that we are.
“We're going to go out and give a good account of ourselves and let the result take care of itself afterwards.”