Clane defeated Athy in the Kildare SFC semi-final.
Clane defeated Athy in the Kildare SFC semi-final.

Clane return to Kildare decider

By Cian O’Connell

In a neat way Clane’s revival links the past with the present. That is why Sunday’s appearance in the Kildare SFC final against Naas means so much to the progressive club.

The last of Clane’s 17 senior titles was pocketed in 1997, the following year they lost a decider to Round Towers. So the intervening decades brought pain, but more importantly, planning.

Solid structures were re-established and now the senior team, led by the well regarded Tom Cribbin, who was player-manager in 1997, are relevant once more.

Club chairperson Anthony O’Dea acknowledges the buzz and excitement that has been generated in Clane. “It is brilliant, the fact that our last county final winning team is the jubilee team that will be celebrated at half-time during the county final, that is brilliant too,” he says.

“You have household names like Martin Lynch, Willie McCreery, John Finn, and Eddie McCormack - guys that played on the Kildare 1998 team, they will all be celebrated at half-time.”

Being involved in such an occasion matters deeply to Clane. “It will be a great day for the club to be back out in Newbridge, to be back in a county final,” O’Dea adds. “In fairness it is down to the work that has been done over years, particularly in the schools with all of the principals that have been there and that are currently there.

“All of our underage coaches too, it is down to all of their work. It is a very young team, a good few of them have won minor, U21, U23 now they are in a senior final. It is something that has been coming for the last couple of years. You see a lot of clubs and a lot of teams that people would say that about them, but unfortunately they don't get there. Thankfully we did.”

Cribbin’s influence has been significant according to O’Dea. “Tom has a wealth of experience from the counties that he has managed,” O’Dea replies.

“He is a highly thought of manager, he is very well thought of, not only in Kildare, but around the rest of the province and country. He is very well thought of in our club, the lads would go through a brick wall for him.

“He has a great team around him too, between lads doing training, physio, selectors, down to kitmen, everything. He doesn't leave a stone unturned when it comes to preparation. That comes through to the lads, who see how much he puts into it, and they appreciate that too.”

Clane manager Tom Cribbin has extensive experience at senior inter-county level.
Clane manager Tom Cribbin has extensive experience at senior inter-county level.

The connections that have been forged with local schools and a vibrant underage set-up have been critical according to O’Dea.

“We are very lucky that we have two primary schools and a secondary school directly across from the club,” O’Dea remarks. “They have fed players across into our club across all codes and grades throughout the years. Teachers and principals have put in hours upon hours with kids that we have got the benefit from. We have a very good structure for the last number of years.

“Our academy has huge numbers, we have had a multitude of coaches, a lot of very experienced coaches. People have come out of coaching older age groups or managing adults to come back in to pass on what they know to our other coaches.

“They have got back involved in underage. It is not something when somebody walks in with a click of the fingers and it happens overnight. It is years in the making, this is down to a lot of people in the school, village, and club.”

To be back competing on the grand stage in Kildare is vital for the long term too – illustrating to emerging players what can be accomplished.

“The club that we have, the size that it is, we have 70 plus teams with four codes in the club - it is a very big club, you can easily get distracted with other things that are all very important,” O’Dea states.

“At the end of the day being part of the GAA is being down getting involved in coaching, getting our players out, ensuring they are playing the games, ensuring they are enjoying themselves.

“That is the most important thing. The thing is when you get success or when people feel that you're doing well across all grades and ages, people will want to get involved in the club.

“Overall that brings on all those other things that we have mentioned - the fundraising, the capital development - people getting behind the club. That is what drives a club - the success, the fact that we are reaping the rewards of all that has been done is brilliant at this stage.”

The hard work continues in Clane.