No-one has worked more relentlessly for this day to come but on Sunday, Ballyea manager Robbie Hogan would finally receive his just rewards. Having suffered the agony of a semi-final defeat in 2013 and back-to-back last eight exits, he was certainly tempted to walk away and give others a chance at working the oracle of a first ever Senior title. But crucially he never lost his belief, something which clearly rubbed off on his players as they finally got over the line at the second attempt.
“It’s unreal, it’s hard to put into words really. We’ve made a bit of history.
“It’s everything, it’s a fantastic day for the club, just look at the people on the field. We’re thrilled and it means so much.
“Any day you can make history is just absolutely fantastic. To see people here that I hurled with myself, we never thought we’d see a day like this. It’s just a fantastic day and we’re over the moon. It’s hard to put words into it really, it’s just brilliant.”
Having pushed Clonlara to the brink last time out, there was never a danger that they would pass up their second chance at a momentous victory.
“The motto we had after the Éire Óg game was, ‘you win or you learn’ and we didn’t win the last day but we learned a bit. Every day is a school day so any day you learn, it’s good. I’m just delighted for these group of lads themselves.
“All year we’ve been coming back and coming back so today wasn’t any different. There was great character out of the lads and I’m thrilled for them.
“There are leaders all over the field, the likes of Gary Brennan and Niall Deasy, they’ve led throughout and nothing seems to phase them. I suppose two weeks ago, we’d one hand on the cup but today we’ve two hands and we’re delighted.”
Amidst the understandable elation however, Hogan was still very mindful of their injured full-forward Eoghan Donnellan whom he dedicated the win to.
“One young man that missed today is Eoghan Donnellan. He is unfortunately in hospital in Limerick and it was Eoghan’s work and dedication in driving home from Dublin that drove us on today. His name was the last words going out of the dressing room today so it was for Eoghan Donnellan that this day was done. It was a tough week for him and his family but Eoghan will be back, knowing the character of the man.”
That character shone brightly throughout the side on Sunday and they will need another sprinkling of that spark if they are to repeat the dose in the provincial semi-final back in Cusack Park this Sunday.
“We’ll turn up again. We’re not going to ignore tonight, not by a long shot as it’s not every day you make history. But these lads have no regard for history, they’ll just rip up the script every time and we have had to fast track a good few through from the underage scene but there’s a huge pride amongst the parish and we’ll give it everything.”
Above: A delighted Robbie Hogan
See this week’s Clare People for complete coverage of the Clare Senior Hurling Final replay