Mike McNamara is confident that the Banner County can produce another big performance that’s needed to bring the Liam McCarthy Cup across the Shannon, reports Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.
NO sideline man has more All-Ireland experience than Mike McNamara – he was trainer in the glory years of ’95 and ’97 when Clare changed the course of hurling history, while he was back there with Galway in 2001.
The latter experience may have been a losing one as Tipperary put an end to the Tribe’s Liam McCarthy hopes, but a dozen years on he’s confident that Clare can take history by the hand and land the All-Ireland.
“They’re just winners,” says McNamara, who served as Clare manager in 2008 and ’09. “All these guys came up with what was achieved in the 1990s when Clare were contesting and winning All-Irelands, something that no other team (apart from 1914 team) had done in the history of Clare.
“They grew up in that era of Clare winning big matches. The types of matches that Clare used to lose for nearly all my life are now the types of matches that Clare win. This Clare team really has that now. The last day showed that when we turned it in the last seconds. That’s the hallmark of Clare and in particular this Clare team and the winning mentality that they have,” he adds.
McNamara traces this unfettered belief all the way back to 2008, when he says a famous defeat was a real reference point for Clare hurling going forward and becoming successful.
“There’s a belief and there’s a real belief in this bunch,” he says. “If you go back to the Under 21 team that lost the Munster final in Ennis that famous evening in 2008 when the umpire made that awful decision, they were winners in the way they bounced back from the heartache of that to win the Munster and All-Ireland titles the following year,” he adds.
Those Munster and All-Ireland Under 21 triumphs under the guidance of John Minogue and Cyril Lyons have been followed by the unprecedented exploits of Donal Moloney, Gerry O’Connor and their minor and Under 21 charges since 2010 that has yielded six more championship titles between the two grades.
That’s why McNamara is quick to say “we are now living in a incredible era for Clare hurling and they deserve all the credit for making us as proud as we are”.
And he says pride will never be a strong as it will be this Saturday when Clare have their shot at history. “Replays are a very strange thing, but I would expect this Clare team to play as well again, because I don’t think they’re a team that bow to pressure,” he says.
“While the pressure that will be on all players in the replay will be a little be more sustained and ferocious than it was the last day, I think it won’t get to this young Clare team. I think if they play as well as they did the first day they’ll be bringing home the McCarthy.”
A first Under 21/Senior double in the county’s history can be Clare’s, adds the straight talking Scariffman. “We spent our lives dreaming of something like this and now it’s there and it’s within our grasp. What was just a dream, a pipe-dream for many years, is now the reality.
“Clare can do it.”