Under 21 selector Peter Casey been to the forefront of Clare’s hurling revolution as a full-time coach over the past six years. The Lisdoonvarna man talks to Joe Ó Muircheartaigh about his hurling passion.
A FEW years ago Kieran Shannon’s ‘Big Interview’ in The Irish Examiner homed in on the modern-day maharishi where hurling coaching is concerned in Paudie Butler, when the Tipperary man touched on the revolution fomenting in Clare.
“He (Paudie) talks excitedly of Peter Casey down in Clare who recently had almost 1,000 primary-school children playing blitzes over five days,” wrote Shannon.
What Butler was doing was speaking about a kindred spirit — a man described by Chirsty O’Connor in The Sunday Times as “hugely progressive in spearheading and developing the modern hurling coaching culture”.
A hurling man infused, enthused and bitten hard by the bug of coaching. Just listen to Casey’s mantra about the game:
“I love the training more so than the matches themselves at times. I love being on the field and I love coaching and I love seeing fellas improving and doing what they’ve been doing in training and putting it into a match. I try to concentrate more so on things that the players are doing more so than the score or the result.”
Surely that’s hurling in its purest form — the art of hurling, about the glory of the game itself with all its skills and nuances as distinct from the result before Casey interrupts this state of grace by saying “still if you don’t get the result it’s terrible”.
For Casey, all of the above has come from the most unlikely of hurling heartlands in Clare. Lisdoonvarna. Not even a hurling outpost, just because they don’t play the game there anymore.
A huge hurler for Clare in the 1950s was Des Dillon from Lisdoonvarna and the Barrett brothers, Tommy and Jimmy played with Ruan in the ‘40s and ‘50s and won three county championships with them. There was a lot of pride in Lisdoonvarna as a result. Even though there isn’t a massive tradition there, there is a great grá for hurling in Lisdoonvarna.
But they did once and for Casey that was enough — enough for him to kick the big ball to touch and take up the camán.
As a kid; as an adult; in the ‘80s; now in the 2000s and well beyond.
“Funny enough, even though there wouldn’t be a hurling tradition in Lisdoon,” says Casey, “there would be big grá for hurling there and there always was. A lot of the hurling supporters you’d see at every match would be from north Clare.
“A huge hurler for Clare in the ’50s was Des Dillon from Lisdoonvarna and the Barrett brothers, Tommy and Jimmy played with Ruan in the ‘40s and ‘50s and won three county championships with them. There was a lot of pride in Lisdoonvarna as a result. Even though there isn’t a massive tradition there, there is that great grá for hurling in Lisdoonvarna,” he adds.
Casey got it from going to matches and then when his father John founded a hurling club in the Spa Town in the 1980s.
“He had a big passion for hurling and from my earliest time I had a hurley in my hand at home,” he recalls, “and set up a team that I played for. Then I went to Flannan’s— I played a little bit there, but not a whole lot and played Corofin for a number of years and then got involved in coaching in my early 20s.”
In that time hurling has come and gone again from Lisdoonvarna, but the one constant has been Casey’s involvement in the game. In Lisdoonvarna, countywide into hurling heartlands and outposts in his role as a coach and now through to his first year as an Under 21 selector.
“It was a teacher in Lisdoonvarna John Hehir who started up the hurling again in the town,” he reveals. “He came up from Wexford and got hurling going. I got involved with him fairly quickly and the next thing took over with him and got into coaching, got mad for coaching and the more coaching I could do after that the better.
“In 2009 the coaching job came up and I got it and I haven’t looked back since. A week after I got the job the lads won the first Munster championship and the lads were slagging you’ve done a great job since you started off,” he laughs.
Of course, this was the great beginning for Clare Under 21 hurling after 12 final defeats between 1972 and 2008, with the breakthrough year of ’09 followed by the unprecedented run from ’12 to ’14 before Casey was one of a new wave of selector/coaches introduced to the management team by Donal Moloney this year.
“It’s fantastic to be involved with this bunch of players and this set-up,” he says. “It’s a dream come through for anyone that would be involved with coaching to be able to coach at this level. It’s a great privilege.
“It was a challenge but it was one I didn’t have to think twice about — once the opportunity came up it was yes, I’m here to learn and I’m here to do my bit. That’s the way it has been. There has been no pressure on us to try and do anything, to be anybody other than ourselves and bring our own set of strengths to the table and try and improve everyone as a result. That’s what we’ve got here.”
With that Clare are at the door another Munster title — and a first with a Lisdoonvarna back story to it in over a century as Casey revealed.
“I think a lot of the training sessions that were done by the 1914 team that won the Munster and All-Ireland were done in Lisdoonvarna,” he reveals.
“I don’t know why that was,” he continues, “because it seems to be long way away to go”.
The sulphur baths maybe?
“That could be it,” he laughs.
Who knows, the Under 21s might take a dip in them before the year is out.
The water’s are supposed to be possessed of special qualities, after all.
Just like Clare Under 21 hurling.