The rise and rise of Cratloe football

Cratloe captain Mikey Hawes is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Martin Murphy and lead Cratloe to Jack Daly glory this Sunday. The former dual county minor spoke to Joe Ó Muircheartaigh about Cratloe’s second big day out in Cusack Park in a week.

THE way things were.
They always footballed in Cratloe from the time the St John’s wing of the club mushroomed in the mid-seventies and took their place among the small football family in south east Clare.
Still, hurling was always the number one game in the order of things around ‘The Hollow’ and late in Páirc Michéal O’Hehir that opened up in 1991, the same year Junior B football championship honours came to the club.
Fielding football teams was a big thing in those early years from the seventies through to the nineties; there were sparse numbers at training, if they trained, as the game existed more than anything else.
Current captain Mikey Hawes was born into that culture. A football man as much as a hurling man given his Lisdoonvarna lineage and a dual county minor in 2003, like Gearóid Considine had been before him, but back at the club, there was still that pecking order.
“Hurling was just totally dominant,” admits Hawes. “The lads had loads of football ability, but collective training wasn’t great. There was no chasing up lads if they were missing. It was just a case of turning up if you wanted to and there was no more about it if you didn’t.
“We had a good win over Clondegad in the 2004 intermediate final, but we weren’t really ready for senior football at that stage. We managed to hold on at senior in 2005 when we won a relegation play-off against Kildysart, but in 2006 we went down,” he adds.
Hawes’ reflections from Cratloe first coming at senior level mirror those of last year’s winning captain Martin Murphy when he looked back on the 2002 Junior A final win over Doonbeg. They beat the Magpies by 1-12 to 1-10 in a final played in Roslevan, with Hawes 1-3 contribution being the winning of the game.
“The referee was 45 minutes late for that game,” recalled Murphy, “and Doonbeg went into the dressing room to relax and build it up again when we were all waiting around. We were outside playing headers and volleys and FA knock out – that showed you the respect they kind of had for it,” he added.
“Colm Collins changed all that,” says Hawes. “Colm got involved with us and that’s when things started to kick off.
“When he came in it was simple – you had to be at training. And the training was very good. It was organised and Colm didn’t just run you – it was all ball work and you enjoyed going out training.
“It was around 2008 that we knew we were coming. When we won the minor A in 2007, even though we were still intermediate we knew the potential was there to do something at senior level.
“Gradually our numbers started to pick up. You had a core group of lads like Padraigh Chaplin and Kevin Browne that played football all along and they were only mad for proper and organised training. That’s what Colm brought – organisation and professionalism,” he adds.
The rest is history, with Hawes playing an integral role in Cratloe’s second, and real coming as a force in Clare senior football.
After that 2002 Junior A win he sat out a couple of seasons because of a cruciate ligament injury and missed out on that intermediate win of ’04 before being re-invented as a defender on his return to the fold.
In the process he has become one of the bulwarks of Cratloe’s football revolution that has blended members of the older brigade from that the 2002 Junior A win like Sean Chaplin, Barry Duggan, Martin Murphy and himself with the new wave of minor and Under 21 championship winners since 2007.
“We always believed we could make the breakthrough,” says Hawes, “even after Kilmurry always seemed to beat us. After we lost the semi-final in 2011 they gave us a few bad beatings the following year. That wasn’t down to tiredness on our part or anything like that – they were just way ahead of us. We had to work on it and catch up.
“Going in against them last year we didn’t really know what to expect. It was our first match of the year, but things just clicked. We gained massively from that. They were the only team to have beaten us since going back up in 2009, so to have beaten them was huge,” he adds.
It was the beginning of a nine-match winning streak in Clare, with the prospect of the perfect ten on Sunday as they bid to put county titles back-to-back.
Why not?
“I watched Éire Óg’s semi-final against Kilmurry Ibrickane and they have come on leaps and bounds since we played them earlier in the year,” says Hawes, “but we’d like to think that we have come on as well.
That was our first outing of the year and hadn’t the inter-county lads back that long. We were a bit rusty that day and have gradually been picking it up.
“It’s going to be finely balanced, there’s going to be nothing in it and will all be down to the day. Éire Óg are one of the most attacking teams in Clare and so are we. It should be a good open game.”
Let the shoot out begin.

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