The Éire Óg clubhouse on Clonroadmore was bursting to overflow as home came the All-Ireland hero Shane O’Donnell, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.
TIMETABLES go out the window when it comes to the job of journeywork that is bringing the Liam McCarthy Cup into the nooks and crannies of Clare.
Day 11 after Liam crossed the Shannon for the first time in 16 years and it’s Clooney/Quin and Éire Óg’s turn on the merry-go-round, with the times of arrival pencilled in at 6pm and 7.30pm respectively.
It was never going to be so easy or straightforward.
Take Clooney/Quin. The arrival time was more or less adhered to alright, but as for the departure gates…..there was no sign of them closing.
After all, the last time players from the parish were part of an All-Ireland winning squad was in ’14 – that’s 99 years ago when Amby and Joe Power flew the flag in Quin, while over the road Michael Flanagan had it flying for the Spancil Hill corner.
It was a famous day when team captain Amby Power brought the Great Southern and Western Railways Cup back to his own pub in Quin. Of course there was no going home that night, with the local constabulary knowing well enough to turn a blind eye to any breaches of the licensing laws of the day – they probably did that by joining in the celebrations. You can’t beat ‘em, so join ‘em and all that.
It’s why in homage to times past as much as anything else, both Fergal Lynch and Peter Duggan and all of Clooney and Quin weren’t going to be confined to the strictures of time when Liam McCarthy finally came among them.
It’s why 7.30pm at Éire Óg was always going to be a moveable feast. And so it soon became 8pm, then 8.45pm, after that it was 9pm and counting.
All the while the crowd grew – the gate to the car park was shut by 8pm, the cars outside snaking around Clonroadmore and down Gallows Hill towards the Turnpike.
All in homage of the Townies’ greatest goal scorer since the Turnpike’s own Tull Considine was in his pomp in the ‘20s and ‘30s as Shaneomania hit Éire Óg – and hit it big. It was huge.
There were people of all ages and all sorts. Club stalwarts like chairman Pat Daly, treasurer Larry Hally, former presidents Paddy O’Halloran and Josie Nevin, current president John O’Halloran, former chairmen Tom Flynn, Brian O’Connell and Michael McNamara, as well as Tony Honan, Tony Brohan, Pat Fitzpatrick, Bernie Glynn and many more.
Then there were the young hurlers of the Academy coached by Bernie O’Brien as well the young footballers by Kenneth Hickey, not forgetting the camógs.
And the girls who don’t play camogie at all.
“I love him,” says one. “I don’t love Neil Horan anymore. It’s Shane O’Donnell now,” she shrieks.
It was that kind of night. Where One Direction meets Michael Cusack.
All because of O’Donnell. The shrieks and screams. The adulation. The frenzy. Popular culture colliding with hurling on the back of a ‘Day in the Life’ of hurling’s newest superstar.
The ‘tour de force’. The 3-3 that changed the course of hurling history – in Ennis, in Clare and everywhere.
“I got lucky,” O’Donnell exclaims before the madding crowd that hems him in towards the stage area of the Éire Óg clubhouse.
But they’re having none of it in Éire Óg on this night – hell, everyone there was a hurling groupie. Seduced by the 3-3 because of what it meant for the county, but above all because of what it meant for the Town.
This was the Townies’ real night of All-Ireland celebration.
“We wouldn’t have won the All-Ireland without the help of the country lads,” quips Tony Honan with mischief. “We wouldn’t have won the two All-Irelands without the country lads,” he adds, not content to leave things there, as he namechecked the man-of-the-match performances by both Shane O’Donnell and Davy O’Halloran in the senior and under 21 finals respectively.
Of course, he was joking, but the real moral of the story was that the Townies were still revelling in the glory brought to town hurling by the All-Ireland exploits of O’Donnell and O’Halloran.
“It’s a famous night in the history of the club,” says chairman Pat Daly. “A fantastic crowd has turned out for Shane O’Donnell and we’re very proud of what he did in Éire Óg. And we proud of all our All-Ireland winners – Shane, David O’Halloran and David Reidy and Gerry O’Connor who was joint-manager of the under 21 team. They have brought great glory to the club,” adds the former Mayor of Clare.
It was 10.30pm in the Éire Óg clubhouse, three hours behind schedule and the night was only beginning and would last for many hours yet.
And not an on duty member of the constabulary on site.
Just a few off duty.
In homage to Liam McCarthy, the Rock of Cashel, Shaneomania and all that.