The Banner Roar that was penned by Dick Cronin from Ennis and performed by Kieran McDermott became the song that defined Clare hurling off the field during the heady days of the 1990s and it’s still popular to this day, writes Ronan Judge.
IT started off as a bit of fun. Dick Cronin wrote the lyrics. Musicians PJ King, Kevin Crawford and Martin O’Malley injected life and energy. Kieran McDermott supplied the vocals.
‘The Banner Roar’ was born. No one in particular thought the song produced to celebrate Clare’s glorious summer of 1995 would have any lifespan beyond a few spins on Clare FM. They soon started to think differently.
“We put it on Clare FM. Then the guy rang me back and said. ‘Jesus you won’t believe it. People are ringing in like mad,” recalls Kieran McDermott of the song’s first play on the local airwaves,
“This was the Thursday or Friday night before the semi-final against Galway. Come Monday or Tuesday Clare FM said, ‘Look you better get something done with this. Everybody is screaming for it.”
Screaming for music. Screaming for hurling. The county had been swept up in a tsunami of excitement following Clare’s Munster title triumph.
The first 500 copies of the Banner Roar flew out the door. The song was everywhere. McDermott and Co. played it on RTE’s ‘Up for the Match’ the night before the All-Ireland final. It popped up on TV news reports. The Banner Roar became the soundtrack to the summer, Dick Cronin’s lyrics speaking to both the county’s years of frustration on the hurling field and a rising confidence sparked by the thrilling exploits of Ger Loughnane’s men.
It was, as McDermott says, “A moment of madness”.
He adds, “Back in the day we used to play out in the back area of the Queens. They used to have a pavilion. You’d pack in there from 6-9pm and the place would be jammed. When that song would come on the place would go mad. It was never designed to end up as it did. But it took legs of it’s own. It was an incredible time.”
He continues, “It was a crazy period and then when they won the All-Ireland, the phone would’ve rang non-stop for four or five months afterwards. The cup was going to every parish. It was Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday night – the cup was all over the place both inside and outside the county.”
McDermot had just taken up music on a full time basis having taken a break from teaching. In the months that followed Clare’s All-Ireland victory, he became the team’s official troubadour – a position that gave him a front row seat at the biggest party to ever hit the county.
He was on the Ryanair flight that brought the team from Dublin to Shannon after the All-Ireland final.
“They flew in low over Shannon and you could see all the people leaving to go into Ennis,” McDermott says,
“The crowd that greeted them at Shannon Airport was incredible. We got into Ennis eventually and sang the Banner Roar as the players were getting up on the stage in Dunnes Stores car-park. It was close to midnight by the time they got up. I remember singing the line – ‘Make no mistake about it boys’ – and I stopped and the crowd responded – ‘We’re going all the way’ – and the volume of it was like getting a sledgehammer to the chest. They reckon there were 35,000 or 40,000 people there. It was phenomenal. It was something I’ve never experienced since and I probably never will again”.
The celebrations continued long into December. McDermott accompanied the panel on a trip to the East Coast of America where the emotional impact of Clare’s success on emigrant communities in Boston and New York left an abiding memory.
He explains, “For them to see Anthony Daly, PJ O’Connell or Jim McInerney, fellas from their own parish walking into their local pub in Yonkers or Brookline with the Liam McCarthy – literally there were tears rolling down their cheeks. One of the best memories I have is the whole Clare team up on the stage on a night in Yonkers’ raceway singing Christmas Carols. The Irish Americans couldn’t get their heads around it. It was just a bonkers time but an incredible memory”.
McDermott recalls a seven-hour bus journey from Boston to New York, broken halfway by a snowball fight outside a fast food joint.
He adds, “We started singing then for the second half of the journey. Everybody sang a song. I remember we were pulling down Fifth Avenue, singing ‘Fairytale of New York’ – it was just a magical time. But unfortunately with all the singing on the bus I was hardly able to sing by the time we got to New York! My vocal cords were in bits.”
Now 18 years on, McDermott has recorded a new song to mark Clare’s latest tilt at All-Ireland glory. The hype again is starting to build.
He says, “To be with my three kids in Croke Park the last day and for them to witness the scenes of emotion when the final whistle went – my God we’re in an All-Ireland final. We’re so used to going to the matches and not getting there and we’re getting beaten. You watch an All-Ireland final and it’s other counties involved. You’re listening to people talking about ’95 and you’re thinking, will that ever happen again? And now we’re there. Its all about to kick off.” And the fun to start all over again.