Munster Club Hurling Final: Sixth sense can guide Cratloe home

Pain of football defeat to The Nire a powerful motivating force for Cratloe as they bid to join a select group in Clare club hurling

YOU’D have to be stone-of-heart not to be moved amd uplifted by Cratloe’s GAA story and their journey so far.
You could say that they waited 125 years to the very day of the founding of the GAA to really announce themselves to the wider world, but since then they’ve been making statements that have echoed in surround sound every since.
Yes, they’ve produced great players before the golden era began to flower when Padraigh Chaplin put the slitter in the Clonlara net — PJ Quain and Bob Frost brought Cratloe to the Croke Park stage when winning a National League in ’46, while Jackie O’Gorman was one of the best corner-backs of his generation and should have been honoured with an All Star in one of those National League winning years of ’77 and ’78.
Indeed, it was King Jackie that put it best a few years back when explaining away Cratloe’s uprising by simply saying “these boys have changed everything”.
Those words and more came home this week when hearing of the influence that people like the late Michael Murphy — who would surely be part of Sunday’s squad were he still alive — has over the team.
Gearóid Considine, who soldiered with Murphy at midfield at Under 21 level on the day he died on field back in 2001, sounded out his enduring influence on Cratloe hurling this week.
So too manager Joe McGrath — he’s done it all year and will do so again on Sunday, while a passage from his contribution to the 2001 GAA Yearbook that was penned jointly with Martin Murphy and Mike Deegan really cuts to the influence and hold the GAA can have on a community, a people and a parish.
“A hurling person’s first impression  of Cratloe would always be a positive one as there was always ‘Murph’ picking a ball across the road at Cratloe Cross,” they said.

Thing is, Cratloe are the masters of economy — in their hurling and used of players as only 19 players have seen action in the eight championship games to date, a stat that’s pushing St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield’s use of just 17 in the run through Clare and Munster in 1998 all the way.

How this Cratloe generation have added to that in spades. The All-Ireland at Under 21 from Conor McGrath, Sean Collins and Liam Markham in 2009 through to more of the same with McGrath again, Podge Collins, Cathal McInerney and Conor Ryan in ’12 before they were altogether for the senior success of ’13.
And now the prospect of bookending that revolution that has taken hold in Páirc Michéal O’Hehir over the past five years with a Munster title would elevate this small pocket of south east Clare onto the GAA stratosphere.
The mere prospect of it shows how Cratloe are living in extraordinary times, but it’s their insatiable desire and hunger for games is what gives them a huge, huge shot at history and joining a select group of Clare clubs with provincial titles.
Ballygunner away were a huge test, just as 2012 Munster champions Thurles Sarsfields were at home, but Cratloe detractors would point to the the sendings off in both games as being what tipped the balance in the favour of the Clare champions. True to a point, but Cratloe still had to win both games and did that with some elan.
For sure, Kilmallock will be a step up from Ballygunner or Thurles and will feel there’s unfinished business in Munster after they failed to put Thurles away in the 2012 final when the chance was there, not to mind having to watch on enviously in ’11 and ’13 as arch rivals Na Piarsaigh plundered provincial titles.
Now, having got over the Na Piarsaigh hump in the county final and out-slugging Sarsfields in a semi-final shoot-out Kilmallock will feel their time has finally come and that they’ll bridge a 20-year gap to the club’s last Munster title.
And, they’ll be marginal favourites and will be hoping that their Munster final experience and a strength in depth that will see two county minors in Paddy O’Loughlin and Robbie Hanley and on the substitutes bench will carry them those few extra yards that will be needed.
Thing is, Cratloe are the masters of economy — in their hurling and used of players as only 19 players have seen action in the eight championship games to date, a stat that’s pushing St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield’s use of just 17 in the run through Clare and Munster in 1998 all the way.
And, this year Cratloe have had an aura about them, one that smacks of come what may they’ll find a way of getting over the line.
How fitting it would be. Their manager Joe McGrath started nurturing much of this team when they were in primary school, while along with Crusheen boss John Carmody is one of the men of the hurling year for the way he stood up to fight the cause of the club at that infamous Clare County Board meeting in Clareabbey last June.
It was a hard thing to do with so many Cratloe players involved with the county team, but he had the players with him — county, club and every in the 33 — and it’s that collective spirit, among themselves and the in wider club between hurling and football that has brought them this far.
Now it’s the great crusade of a Munster title — the double dream may have gone last Sunday, but that doesn’t take from the magnitude of Cratloe’s achievements in 2014.
They need to win a Munster title though and the pain of last Sunday could give them the extra edge to get over the line in what will be another close game.

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