JACK Browne does have Croke Park experience although it wasn’t the happiest. He was a member of the Clare minor squad that lost the All-Ireland semi-final final to Galway back in 2011. What does he remember of that day?

“I remember we lost anyway,” laughs the genial full back. “Look, it was a big day. A huge day for minors, one I’ll never forget. We played well on the day, put up a great performance but came up short against Galway. I knew we were proud of what we had done, but desperately disappointed with the result,” Browne recalls.

Clare fell short in that semi-final after extra time but this wasn’t the end of Jack’s inter-county journey. He has since represented Clare at U-21 and senior championship level, although Friday will be his first time back in Croke Park in six years. Did he think it would be as long?

“You never really know with hurling. You can’t take anything for granted. I’m just delighted to be going back there. While I would love to get there with Clare this year or any year, going there with your club is a very special experience,” he says.

How has the hype around the parish been for Jack and his team mates?

“It’s fairly excitable in my house anyway,” he laughs. “But look, it’s an All-Ireland final, you’d expect that and it’s great to see the houses, the school decorated, the colours and signs everywhere, that’s a great buzz for a place like Ballyea.

“As players however we have to take a small step back from that. We have certainly embraced the build-up, but we’ve tried not to get caught up in it.

“We have a game to play and that is really all we have to focus on. So our concentration can’t change, final or not. That’s how we have prepared and really now we are just looking forward to the game itself. We can’t wait for it to start,” he says.

“I remember we lost anyway,” laughs the genial full back. “Look, it was a big day. A huge day for minors, one I’ll never forget. We played well on the day, put up a great performance but came up short against Galway. I knew we were proud of what we had done, but desperately disappointed with the result,” Browne recalls.

Waiting for Ballyea on Friday are Dublin and Leinster champions Cuala, a team that the teak tough defender has only seen this year on TV, but one he has been watching closely;

“Yes, they looked very good against O’Loughlin Gaels and better against Slaughtneil. It wasn’t hard to see why they won both games comfortably, their forwards in particular look dangerous. They’re a physically strong team too, so we know we’re up against it, we know that we’ll have to find an extra level again to stay with them,” Jack says.

Browne is steeped in hurling and his genes contain a sprinkling of Munster and All-Ireland medals from both Limerick and Tipperary, but an All-Ireland club medal would a first into his family if he could get his hands on one this Friday.

“That’s the plan anyway,” he with the same determination that has thwarted plenty of forwards in recent times. Hopefully that run continues this weekend.

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