Sixmilebridge captain Aidan Quilligan is looking forward to Sunday’s Munster final, when the current pride of the hurling parish are playing for the place local hurling history as much as a provincial title.
Quilligan out to emulate past ‘Bridge teams
A HURLING game, but more than that. Much more than that indeed, quite apart from the fact that there’s a Munster trophy sitting in Cusack Park’s Ard Comhairle waiting for collection at the end of 60 minutes.
What the ‘Bridge want, what their Na Piarsaigh opponents from ten miles in the N18 want, but talk to Sixmilebridge captain Aidan Quilligan and you get a real sense that his side are playing for place in the lore and legend, as much as the silverware.
“It would be absolutely fantastic,” says Quilligan, who has been an inspiring 2013 captain. “As a ‘Bridge person growing up you see the things that ‘Bridge teams of the past have done – that’s a measure of being a Sixmilebridge hurler. You gain the respect of the Sixmilebridge people by achieving like that.
“We’re looking at Sunday like that. It’s an opportunity to really prove ourselves as a great team and to go down in those records that will be quoted for a long time to come,” he adds.
You’d think this expectation that the Sixmilebridge team have of themselves and that the wider hurling community has for them would translate into pressure, but not a bit of it.
Pressure was yearning, hoping and hurling to win back the Canon Hamilton trophy, says Quilligan. Something that’s evaporated now as they prepare to open their shoulders once more in the Munster final.
“Eleven years, it was 11 years since the ‘Bridge won a title,” Quilligan reminds himself once more. “When you talk to hurling people around the ‘Bridge they can’t even comprehend a timeline like that. That pressure was building every year and every year it was getting harder and harder to get there, so it’s a case of now that pressure being gone. We can just go out and enjoy our hurling game so much more now,” he adds.
That Quilligan has such an attitude ahead of the showpiece of the club year in the province can be put down squarely to the experience of his father Flan when it came to Munster club competition.
He won eight county medals; he played in eight Munster campaigns that took in the finals of 1977 (draw and replay), ’84, ’89, ’92, ’93 and ’95 – that’s seven final days out in all, which is unmatched in Sixmilebridge or Clare club hurling history.
“He got medals from ’84 and ’95 and has always told me that that his favourite matches ever were Munster club games because the pressure has completely lifted and that those games are a great experience and that lads tend to open and show displays that you wouldn’t have seen at all earlier in the year in the county championship,” reveals Quilligan.
“Playing Munster club was a strange feeling. The emotion that we had the previous week – it was the most incredible feeling ever to win that county title. When the final whistle went, it was sheer elation.
“We were a bit drained from emotion of last week, but we were able to get things going and rally the troops again for the Midleton game, getting back to training on the Wednesday night,” he adds.
Now it’s full steam ahead to Cusack Park on Sunday for a first Munster Club final in Ennis since Éire Óg played against Patrickswell in 1990 and the ‘Bridge’s first home provincial final since their first back in 1977 against St Finbarr’s.
“The general feeling was we weren’t worried where the game was going to be on. There was talk of Thurles, talk of the Gaelic Grounds and Cusack Park,” says Quilligan.
“We look forward of the ritual of going up to Cusack Park, we’re used to that and used to the pitch, but it’s another hurling game at the end of the day and Na Piarsaigh have the capability of playing as well in Cusack Park as they have anywhere else. We have to deal with that.”
If they do a first Munster title will be coming to Clare in 13 years and the current men of the ‘Bridge will have their place in history. Local history, county history, provincial history, with the power of the local being the most important of all down by the banks of the O’Garney River.