IT has been a great week for Clare football.
Believe me it has.
Internationally that is.
A great week, because of the signal honour given to Gary Brennan by one Joe Kernan. Big Joe selected Big Gary on the Irish Compromise Rules squad that will take on Australia in a once off test match this coming Saturday in Croke Park. Quite simply Brennan is the best Clare footballer of his generation and for a good number of years now has been regarded as one of the best midfielders in the country — that this star quality is being honoured with selection on the Irish team is just desserts for the Clondegad player. In getting the international call-up Brennan is following in some famous footsteps. Noel Roche was the original of the species — over 30 years on from the maiden voyage of the Compromise Rules series that made players like John Platten, Ross Glendinning, Gary McIntosh and Robert ‘The Dipper’ Di Pierdomenico and his ‘Village People’ ‘tache famous the St Senan’s Kilkee man is one of the series’ icons. Roche was in that first ever squad in 1984 that brought sulphur and excitement in equal measure, while such was in influence in that first ever series that was played over three games that he was a fixture and fitting on the teams for the first four instalments.The 1984 and ’87 series’ were played in Ireland, while there were two memorable trips down under in 1986 and ’90. Of course the most memorable games were when both sides went on the knuckle — something no Irish team was better prepared for than Kevin Heffernan’s 1986 touring side were. For Heffo, you had to be able to give it and take it, as Roche memorably recalled a few years back.
“Kevin Heffernan was the one man who came across as totally ruthless,” remembered Roche. “Heffernan told one player in a public meeting of players that he wasn’t good enough. I was there looking at him and couldn’t understand. He was playing in the first test but Heffernan told him ‘you shied back off the ball, you’re out’.
“In nearly every test there was what they call a Donnybrook. The Australians had this thing in them that if they got the Irish fighting early on they would distract them. That was their game plan — the first opportunity it was everyone in.
“Heffernan told them we were ‘taking no shit’ this time. He said the minute the first came in he wanted everyone else, the goalie, the whole lot in because his motto was ‘the referee can’t send everyone off’,” he added.
After Roche’s time in green from 1984 to ’90 the baton passed to Lissycasey’s Martin Daly who lined out in the late the 1999 series in Croke Park, while Kilmurry Ibrickane’s Odran O’Dwyer made the trip to Australia in 2003 when the side was managed by John O’Keeffe. Now comes Gary Brennan’s time in green, with his selection completing the circle of his Compromise Rules career. All because, while Brennan was still at school in Rice College in Ennis he was selected for the Irish Under 17 team that played in Australia. Now a decade on comes the Clare captain’s selection for the senior side — making it that great week for Clare football.
Alas, no commentary on Clare football could be complete without referring to the travails of Corofin and St Joseph’s Miltown in Munster club action over the weekend. No one can take away from their domestic successes. They were the best teams in their respective championships — Miltown’s first county senior title in 25 years and Corofin’s intermediate title since 2006 were richly deserved. However, the standard of Clare club football in 2015 was not good — it was very poor in fact, so much so that the hammerings that both St Joseph’s and Corofin endured at the hands of Clonmel Commercials and St Mary’s Caherciveen respectively should be a tipping point for the game in the county. Something has to be done about standards — it has to be wake up call for Clare football when over the course of 120 minutes football both Munster club championship standardbearers could only muster 0-4 between them. Clare senior manager Colm Collins was speaking on Clare FM last Friday when the match previews for both games gave both St Joseph’s and Corofin fighting chances of success. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Collins did make a very good point though, one that touched on the volume of games played by clubs in Kerry as compared to Clare. Football in Kerry is an all year round thing, something that a twitter post by balls.ie proved on the day of the Corofin game — it listed St Marys’ year-long games programme, one that could yet run to 32 games if they managed to get to the South Kerry Championship final. There should be a reform of the club game in Clare. Just like the Clare senior hurling championship was culled last year, so should the Clare football championship be culled. There aren’t 16 senior championship standard clubs in Clare — cutting that figure by up to six and then encouraging amalgamations between intermediate and junior clubs for senior championship, like they have in Kerry would be one way to go.
IT has been a great week for Clare football.