1 IT’S all in the date, you see. The date that tells us that Clare can and will win this All-Ireland semi-final. All you have to do is be a disciple of the power of superstition and believe in the power of piseoga. That means having this All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday, 28 July is perfect from the Clare point of view — perfect because the last time Clare beat Galway in championship hurling also happened to be on 28 July. Back in 2013 it was a Sunday when Clare, who were underdogs that day also, given the Galway’s Leinster championship success and run to the All-Ireland final the previous year when they took Kilkenny to a replay, trumped the Tribe in decisive manner when scoring a 1-23 to 2-14 win over them in their quarter-final in Thurles.
2 STAYING with the calendar, but moving away from the date and becoming more fixated on time, Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final couldn’t be coming at a better time for Clare. Yeah, I know some prospective punters who have jobs and have to work on Saturday are put out by the fact that the game is not fixed for Sunday, but Saturday at 5pm will do just fine. It’s more than fine, in fact. All because the last time Clare played championship hurling in Croke Park was on a Saturday, and what’s more the throw-in time was 5pm. We’re talking about the 2013 All-Ireland final replay, of course, and what’s more it was on the 28th of the month [September to July], like Saturday’s game. So there you have it — the 28th of the month, a Saturday, with a 5pm throw-in. They won in 2013; they’ll win in 2018.
3 THE weather. There’s been no getting away from this summer — the lack of rain, the drought and all that. Global warming maybe, but for those who live their lives to the beat of the GAA drum it’s easy to remember when similar weather conditions prevailed. In 1995 and 2013, of course — those long and very hot summers, when drought conditions prevailed, but more importantly when Clare prevailed in the Liam McCarthy race. And, of course they beat Galway en route in both years. It follows then that in the long hot summer of 2018 Galway will be beaten again and the All-Ireland will be won.
4 CLARE don’t lose All-Ireland semi-finals to Galway. Why start now. There may only have been two All-Ireland semi-final meetings between the sides down the 130 years of senior championship hurling, but both of those were won by the Banner Boys. The boys of ’15 blazed the trail when beating them in Gort; then the boys of ‘32 came from 16 points down early in the second half to win by four; the boys of ’95 were a bit more conventional in the way they went about their business in winning by five. Conventional or unconventional, of course it follows that Clare will win by six this time out.
5 CLARE don’t lose to Galway in Croke Park. The semi-final in ’95 was the first case in point when they had that 3-12 to 1-13 win, while they followed that up in ’99 and 2002. In ’99 they were taken to a replay, but 2-3 by Niall Gilligan in the replay propelled them to 3-18 to 2-14 win, while the ‘Bridge man was the only goalscorer in the 1-15 to 0-17 win over them in 2002.
6 YE wouldn’t have made the All-Ireland breakthrough in 1980 but for the foundations laid by a Clareman — the hurling missionary that was Fr Jackie Solon from Whitegate. The National League winner with Clare in ’46 revolutionised Galway hurling in a four-year stint as county chairman, being responsible for the implementation of the GAA’s ‘Hurling Scheme’, distributing 4,500 hurleys that he got from O’Doherty’s in Kilrush around the county. He put one of those hurleys into Conor Hayes’ hands — the rest was All-Ireland gold.
7 AND, as Clareman Fr Solon’s work off the field helped Galway hurling reach those All-Ireland heights, there was also a Clare presence on the field thanks to Sixmilebridge’s Niall McInerney, who was corner-back in ’80 and in a distinguished career in maroon also won two All Stars, a National League and three Railway Cups. It doesn’t there, beause when another All-Ireland was won in 2010 — in this case the Fitzgibbon Cup, it was John Conlon that won it for NUIG, their first title since 1980.
8 AND there’s more where Clare trying to help Galway reach the All-Ireland summit is concerned. Colm Flynn from Ennis has been there and done that — being a key member of Cyril Farrell’s backroom team as physio during the successes of 1987 and ’88.
9 AND, during those years of All-Ireland famine in Galway it was Clare folk who put their shoulder to the wheel for the cause of the Tribe at various intervals between 1988 and their return to the summit in 2017. Mike McNamara answered the call under Noel Lane’s term as manager in the early 2000s, bringing them to the final in 2001, while later in the decade Ger Loughnane returned to inter-county management with Galway.
10 FINALLY, finally, Clare can win, because when it comes down to it, and when captains of either Clare or Galway have got to climb the steps of Croke Park’s Ard Comhairle and give the winning speeches, those in the Banner County put Anthony Daly’s cúpla focail in ’95 above Joe Connolly’s in ’80. Ok, there was no cúpla focail [Gaeilge] in Daly’s oration, whereas Joe set the template for Dara Ó Cinnéide and Lester Ryan to follow, but the breadth of Daly’s discourse makes him the nonpareil.