Cratloe manager Colm Collins grabbed his chance of senior championship glory on his first day out back in 1980 when he was the youngest member of Kilmihil’s winning side – now he hopes that his Cratloe side can land Jack Daly at the first time of asking, reports Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.
AHEAD of the All-Ireland hurling final it was selector Louis Mulqueen who cut through much of the mantra and stripped the occasion down to the bare essentials: winning and winning now, out of a fear that the chance might never swing this way again.
Yeah the players were there to challenge and win in the years ahead…..but only the here and now mattered as Muqlueen cultivated the siege mentality of building up the day as if it might be the team’s last ever.
Cratloe manager nods in agreement. The county final is the All-Ireland – the same rules apply, be it on the All-Ireland or county final stage. Just because, you never know what’s coming.
“I was the youngest on the Kilmihil team in 1980,” recalls Collins from his own playing days. “I was 19 on the day. A tremendous day and we were on a high after winning the county final.
“As a young fella we thought that it would be like that every year. We had seven of the starting team on the Clare Under 21s and we thought we were going to win ten championships. It did not work out. We got beaten in numerous finals,” he adds.
That’s why Collins and Mulqueen are on the same wavelength. Cratloe have the talent to contend in the years to come, like Clare have and Kilmihil had, but this might be as good as it gets, as Collins knows from experience.
“When you get to a final, you make the best of it,” he says, “because you may not get the chance again”.
Cratloe have certainly grasped that chance with gusto in 2013 thus far on the back of four successive wins to reach their first county final in 126 years – the disappointing exit of the hurlers from the championship being the spark to ignite the footballers in recent weeks.
“We were unfortunate to be knocked out of the hurling,” says Collins, “but on the other hand it was the first time ever that we got to train for one sport – we have them on their own doing football, which is fantastic.”
The results have been the story of the championship thus far, with relegation to Division 3 of the league offset by the rising tide at championship once their seven senior countymen – Padraic Collins, Sean Collins, Conor Ryan, Conor McGrath, Liam Markham, Cathal McInerney and Fergal Lynch – who were released for the first round win over Kilmurry Ibrickane returned permanently after the All-Ireland. Add in Brendan Bugler this week.
“The lads are mad into it and has always been our aim to try and win a senior championship,” says Collins. “These fellas wanted it and it’s not a case of having to push them in any shape or form. They’re extremely motivated for it and this has been a goal for a while and this year we felt we had a tremendous chance.
“They’re all big into football – they’re all at training every night. None of those guys are going to be missing training or anything like that. The big advantage is that they’re in great shape and the great attitude they have,” adds Collins.
The story told about Padraic Collins in the days after the All-Ireland is the best example of this attitude. The All-Ireland was won on Saturday and the celebrations carried over until Monday, but by Tuesday the biggest job was to get Collins in off the Cratloe field where he wanted to puck and kick ball, instead of getting the rest his mentors wanted for him.
But it’s not just the countymen, as Colm Collins reveals – it’s everywhere and at every level. Conor McGrath enlisting to man the scoreboard at a game in the field a few weeks ago when other All Stars and All-Ireland winners would have their feet up, the footballers from Pierce de Loughrey out who get up to the pitch of the countymen.
“They’re all very dedicated and very fit,” says Collins. “The county lads come back to us in great shape and are very professional when they do come in, but the others have the same attitude.
“This year we started to look at what we were doing and started to concentrate on different things – you do need to get time with players to go through things. You can be talking all you like but when you do it on the pitch, that’s the only way you’ll re-enforce it. It’s all ball we work with and there’s no physical training,” he adds.
It’s that pure football – it will be called ‘Total Football’ if Jack Daly travels down the N18 for the first time and sets up home for the next year in Cratloe – that Collins hopes will guide his side home to history.
But only after the war – of attrition, because of the weather and because of what’s at stake. It county final day after all, and it doesn’t come much harder than this as Collins only knows too well.
“Nobody is going to go out in a county final and hand it over to you. You have to claim your county final,” he says. “They are hard won, they’re not easy. You’d be talking to people and they’d say ‘you have this one and that one and you’ll win’. It’s not as simple as that. They take on a life of their own, you have to go out and win it.”