St Joseph’s Miltown manager David O’Brien picked club over county late last year and it’s something he doesn’t regret as his side face into Sunday’s Munster final test, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.
O’Brien brings it all back home
SEPTEMBER 28 and the All-Ireland is won, with David O’Brien a witness to history like all the other 82,000 or so present in Croke Park.
Elated. Overjoyed. Any superlative you can find, O’Brien et al are experiencing it as Clare reach the summit of their grand ambitions for 2013.
But, there’s something nagging the Miltown Malbay man at the same time, gnawing at him as he momentarily reflects on something that might have been, but isn’t.
“It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” says O’Brien, “but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had mixed feelings about it for a few seconds. I was saying to myself ‘what have I just missed out on at all’.”
All because O’Brien could have down there in the trenches with the team – part of ‘Team Clare’ or ‘Team Fitzgerald’ as a cog in impressive battalion of a backroom wheel pieced together by Davy Fitzgerald for his assault on the All-Ireland Championship.
In fact, O’Brien had been recruited to that same battalion 12 months previously and was mad for the road ahead and 2013 might bring Clare hurling, but…
“I said I’d get involved with the Clare hurlers under Davy Fitzgerald – I had agreed to do that but then the call came from Miltown,” O’Brien reveals. “I had to answer it really. I had to go back – that’s where I started so when I was asked I jumped at it to get back involved with the club.”
That involvement stretches back 15 years now, since the first call to coaching arms came with an under 16 team being managed by former Clare and Kilrush Shamrocks great Seanie Moloney.
“It was 1998 when I was just over age for the Under 16 team,” reveals O’Brien, “and Seanie asked me would I give him a hand. We had no minor team in Miltown that year so I got involved. After that he transferred to the bank in Kilkee, so I ended up staying with the team and have really been involved with teams ever since”.
Along the way O’Brien has had an eclectic life as a coach, working full-time with the Clare County Board for five years from 2000, while at the same time managing the Miltown ladies for a period before moving onto the county team.
The common denominator between O’Brien’s involvement with both teams was success – a county senior title came Miltown’s way for the first time ever in 2005, while the Clare ladies then scaled All-Ireland intermediate heights in 2009.
“Winning the county senior team with the ladies was a huge thing,” says O’Brien. “We came from a very low base because the year before we could barely field a team, but a load of players came through together at underage to win the senior.
“This year semi-final win over Currow was the only thing that came close to that win for the ladies – winning the All-Ireland with the Clare ladies in 2009 was brilliant but it’s something different when it’s with your club. When you got back to your club, it means more – to win the county title and then go out in Munster and reach the final, that’s huge,” he adds.
It’s been Miltown’s journey, from the depths of the despair of a first ever relegation in the 126-year history of the club in 2012 to a first ever Munster final appearance 12 months later.
“It’s been brilliant and everything I hoped it would be,” says O’Brien. “My one that being in the bar business in Miltown and being over the Miltown football team mightn’t really work together. You want your players off the drink, while you’re relying on people to be drinking at the same time.
“In fairness, there hasn’t been a problem. The players have rowed in behind everything we wanted them to do.
“The players themselves would acknowledge that over the previous few years the players didn’t conduct themselves as they should have. They weren’t as disciplined as they should have been.
“This year it has been different. It hurt them last year when they got relegated. A lot of people in town didn’t think they cared enough, but they really responded. It hurt them and because of that we have had no issues with players.
“They know that if you don’t have discipline and if you don’t have workrate and if don’t put in the effort, last year is what happens.
“They don’t want to feel like that again and this year they went out and did what they had to do and are being rewarded for that now. They have towed the line, created their own rules and stuck by them,” he adds.
With that O’Brien points down Miltown’s Malbay’s Main Street in the direction of Canada Cross and the road out to Spanish Point and on towards Quilty in the distance.
“Kilmurry Ibrickane are the benchmark for us because of what they’ve achieved and the way they’ve gone about it,” says O’Brien, “and make no mistake about it. They were the first team to come along and have that attitude that it doesn’t matter where the opposition is from, what they’ve done or what they will do. We used that against Currow and took out all the talk about Kerry. It worked and hopefully it will work again in the final.”