Cratloe the Brave in titanic Munster final duel with Dr Crokes

Conor Ryan after Cratloe's agonising defeat to Dr Crokes in the Munster Club final,

CRATLOE know that the pats aplenty they received in the back after Sunday’s Munster final epic in The Gaelic Grounds was the very same as getting kicked a few degrees further south.
They knew this because they’re winners and in the excruciating pain of this Munster final that was won and lost, it was no consolation to them that they’d lifted the hearts of Clare football people everywhere with their heroic stand, in the same way that Kilmurry Ibrickane did three years previously on the same ground when beating Portlaoise in the All-Ireland semi-final.
No consolation because they lost a game that was theirs to win in the final minutes as the minnows from Clare football country stared down the giants from the Kingdom country that’s seen as the great guardian of Gaelic Football.
After all, didn’t Dr Crokes’ first immortal superstar Dick Fitzgerald write the book on it, his tome simply titled ‘How to Play Gaelic Football’, while another Killarney man in Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan followed into the world of publishing with his ‘Art and Science of Gaelic Football’.
All the while Kerry teams have had that state of grace about them since Dick Fitz’ and Dr Eamonn’s days, so who were the Poor Clares from Cratloe to upset the weight of football tradition, birthright and breeding in this Munster final showpiece.
Yeah, we know that the great Kilrush Shamrocks team of the 1970s had beaten former All-Ireland champs Austin Stacks in ’79, same way the Doonbeg Magpies beat another All-Ireland winning outfit in Castleisland Desmonds in ’88, not forgetting the tour de force given by the Kilkee Blues when they beat An Ghaeltacht in ’05 and the landmark Munster final win by Kilmurry Ibrickane over Kerin’s O’Rahillys in ’09, but Cratloe in ’13 just a couple of weeks after they won their first ever county title….
Never. It couldn’t be.
But it was. Cratloe may have lost but to borrow the headings from the dust jackets of the ‘bioblí naofa’ penned by Dick Fitz and Dr Eamonn, they brought the ‘Art and Science of Gaelic Football’ alive in their rousing second half display, while at the same time showing 33 to 1 on favourites Dr Crokes ‘How to Play Gaelic Football’.
It was as good a 30 minutes ever produced by a Clare team, not just because they came back from the dead, but in the way they did it with a flurry of points that wouldn’t have been out of place on All-Ireland final day on the third Sunday in September.
It was the way their leaders stepped up all over the field – Conor McGrath who electrified everyone with his running, his points, his passing game and his vision; Cathal McInerney, who can now be said to have one of the sweetest leg pegs in football, not just in Clare football.
Cratloe proved themselves to be serious ball-players on Sunday – they always have been, whatever the code, but it was only through this display that those in the Banner County and beyond really recognised their immense ability, but also their steadfast dedication to the cause.
They were heroic, yet they lost and it’s that bitter taste that must have been very hard to swallow on Sunday and will be until they get back to the same stage.
For the rest of us footballers on the ditch, however, there’s nothing but admiration.
This was best summed up in one of the many social media posts in praise of Cratloe on Sunday evening.
“I want to thank you for the enjoyment ye have given and instilling belief in young boys and girls,” said one Facebook correspondent. “Your team will be held as an example of what can be done when pride, passion and determination are part of what you are,” she added.
Then there was the rider of “by the way I’m not from Cratloe and have no connection with the club”.
You didn’t have to be from Cratloe to celebrate what was an amazing display – one that should have yielded a famous, famous victory for the all too bare cupboard of Clare football history.


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