Support will be key for Clare as they bid to create history in Semple Stadium on Saturday according to joint-manager Gerry O’Connor, who has issued a clarion call to saffron and blue followers to turn out in their tens of thousands. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh reports.
IT was Ger Loughnane who coined the phrase “the great Clare supporters” in the summer and autumn of 1995 when the Banner County came out of the championship cold and won their first All-Ireland in 81 years.
Whether he said the same after that year’s Munster final when Clare won their first provincial title in 63 years is a moot point – after all, saffron and blue supporters in Semple Stadium that July day were outnumbered by their Limerick counterparts by at least three to one.
Of course it was different come All-Ireland semi-final day against Galway that year when a new army of Dalcassian supporters had been mobilised and made the long trek to Dublin like Brian Boru’s own Dalcassians had nearly a millennium before.
Same as it ever was when 2013’s run to September started taking shape – the crowds growing as Clare grew into the championship, so much so that when September finally came “the great Clare supporters” were everywhere.
Outnumbered by Limerick again when it came to the semi-final, but mobilised to full-strength come finals times.
The Clare Under 21s’ joint-manager Gerry O’Connor is hoping to mobilise some of the same supporter traffic for Saturday. Yes, it’s the players on the field and not the supporters who will ultimately win the game, but according to O’Connor the importance of the supporters can’t be underscored.
They can make a difference – a huge difference when games are coming down the home stretch.
“One thing that we can’t forget is the support that Wexford will bring into this game,” warns O’Connor, “so I would be hoping that we can bring a big support too. At this stage we’re expecting that we will be outnumbered by two to one by Wexford supporters.
“We had huge support for the All-Ireland final against Antrim. We had 10,000 to 12,000 people in Thurles following us that day, but there’s no doubt about it, but Wexford will have the bones of 20,000 behind them on the night,” he adds.
The All-Ireland final will be shown live on TG4, a fact that that may tempt some Clare supporters to watch proceedings from the comfort of home, but in rallying the supporter troops in the trenches O’Connor points to the difference they can make on big days.
“We appeal to the people of Clare to come out and support us, like they have been doing all year,” he says, “but on this day we hope they come out in bigger numbers than ever, like last year’s final and more than that.
“It will be a huge factor, the amount of support that Wexford will have. It was very visible in the semi-final – the support that Wexford had really rallied the team.
“Liam Ryan caught a few inspirational balls on the edge of the square and Jack Guiney caught some puck-outs. The crowd responded and that drove the team on significantly in the last ten minute of the game when they went on to win it. They’ll have that again with a bigger crowds following them the next day, so we’d love to have our supporters their in big numbers too.”