GER Loughnane had a theory as to why it would always be difficult for an outside man to reach the mountaintop with the Clare hurlers.
Back when he took on the Clare job in August 1994 he said, “Justin McCarthy, Eamon Cregan, Len Gaynor even, they assumed certain things. They assumed that inter-county players had certain things and had certain skills, but in Clare only six or seven had those qualities.
“You had to get the other 14 or 15 on the panel to really work on their game. They didn’t comprehend the depth of that when they were here. It is only somebody within Clare who had seen all those flaws that could work on those.”
The moral of the story that only an insider could work the miracle and win Munster and All-Ireland titles for Clare — a thesis that was inspired as it was prophetic as it was the local man Loughnane who led Clare to that mountaintop just over a year later.
But of course, there are always exceptions to Loughnane’s law, in Clare and everywhere.
Outside Clare the missionary work of Kilkenny man Dermot Healy is what brought the Offaly hurlers to the mountaintop in 1981 and again in ’85.
Healy wasn’t really wanted by his native place, until after he had succeeded in Offaly that is, but his three-year term with Kilkenny didn’t yield any Bob O’Keeffe or Liam McCarthy Cups.
But what he achieved with Offaly was remarkable and must still rank as the greatest rags to riches story of them all in the hurling championship.
Healy gave the Offaly side of 1981 the same levels of belief that Loughnane gave to Clare in 1995.
Healy was fully convinced they were going to win that All-Ireland, in much the same way Loughnane was convinced in ‘95 when with that scary look in his eye he told ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Marty Morrissey that “we’re going to do it” when coming back out onto the field after half-time.
Healy went further than half-time. He narrowed it down to ten minutes before the end of the ‘981 final. His conviction was that Offaly would beat Galway and he couldn’t see any other result, so much so that he had it drummed into Johnny Flaherty et al that if they were within five points with ten minutes to go that they’d win the day.
Lo and behold they found themselves within five points with 60 of the 70 minutes played. Then the Offaly Rover himself Pat Delaney sent his blond locks flowing behind his back when bounding up the field to land an inspiration point.
A few more points followed and then Johnny Flaherty palmed the sliotar into the Galway net in time for Pat Delaney to clear his throat and start singing the Offaly Rover.
It all showed that an outsider could reach the mountaintop — something that John Maughan did in Clare [the highest peak in the province that is] when winning the Munster Championship in 1992 and what John O’Mahony did in winning Connacht with Leitrim in ’94 and the All-Irelands with Galway in ’98 and 2001.
Of course, the greatest missionary of them all has been Mick O’Dwyer, who captured the hearts of the nation last Monday when a documentary on his football life was aired on RTÉ 1.
To paraphrase/steal Eamon Dunphy’s famous line about Michel Platini back in Euro ’84 before he won the tournament, it was a good documentary, not a great documentary.
Good because it was in Micko’s words, not great because in many ways it only scratched the surface of his time in football.
There was no mention of his time in Clare — that’s not a bone of contention really because his year in the Banner for the 2013 season was just a postscript to his time in inter-county management that started 38 years previously when he took the Kerry job in 1975. But Tadhg Murphy, Billy Morgand more could have got menioned.
“I took this on for one year only and that has ended now,” said O’Dwyer after his final day as an inter-county manager when Clare were on the receiving end of a 3-17 to 0-10 defeat to Laois in Cusack. “It was a difficult way to finish up,” he added.
The pity from Clare’s point of view was that O’Dwyer wasn’t enticed to Clare when he was in pomp — after he left the Kildare job in 2002, or even later when he found that he was surplus to requirements in Laois.
What he achieved with Wicklow after taking them over in 2007— the same year that Páidí Ó Sé had his less than distinguished year in charge of Clare — was exceptional, because their run through the Qualifiers in 2009 when beating Fermanagh, Cavan and Down and then pushing Kildare all the way for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final must rank up there with any of the titles he won with Kerry, Kildare or Laois.
However, even if he had come to Clare a decade earlier, he wouldn’t have found the same passion for football, among the supporters at any rate, that he found on his other staging posts outside Kerry.
He even knew this when taking the job in 2013 when saying, “I understand and I know that Clare is a hurling county”.
He didn’t have to contend with that in Kildare, Laois or Wicklow.
You might say it was the same for Maughan when he came in back in 1990, but back then the county hurling team was in as big a trough as the footballers were.
Of course, that whole hurling/football debate within the county makes Colm Collins’ achievements as the county’s longest serving football manager even all the more remarkable.

Above: Mick O’Dwyer in the Cusack Park dugout during his time with Clare in 2013.

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Joe Ó Muircheartaigh graduated from University College Dublin in 1989 with a degree in history and politics. After completing a Diploma in Journalism at The College of Commerce, Rathmines in 1991, he embarked on a career in journalism. Joe spent four years with Clare FM from 1992 and was with The Clare Champion from 1996 to 2005. He has won two McNamee Awards for GAA journalism and has published two books. Contact Joe on

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