FOR Donie Garrihy the Oscar Traynor Trophy final couldn’t be coming at a better time, and maybe even a better place than faraway Buncrana that’s over a 400-mile round trip from his home in Doolin.
Why this week and why Buncrana you wonder until Garrihy namechecks Brother Wilfred and then takes you a on a journey much longer than that mammoth round trip to Buncrana and back.
“He came from the Inishowen area,” enthuses Garrihy, “and this Thursday, 25 May is the 50th anniversary of Celtic winning the European Cup. The Lisbon Lions. I could name them for you, back to front or whatever. It’s a huge thing.
Huge for Garrihy because it’s doubtful he’d be in Maginn Park this Sunday and much less managing Clare there as they go for back-to-back titles if it wasn’t for Celtic and the love of the game his support of them stoked from within.
“Who are you,” he wonders.
“But how much of a Leeds man,” he wonders again.
“Well the European Cup final [the 1975 one] still pains me… the penalties that weren’t, Lorimer’s goal, let’s move on.”
“I’m that and worse,” says Garrihy. “I’m mental Celtic, so is John O’Malley — I’d go to games with John and Mikey Brohan, Michael Watson and Alfonso D’Auria. My first game to see Celtic was in Jackman Park — played a League of Ireland selection. I saw them beat Juventus in the Champions League 4-3. I’ve seen them Seen them in Turin, Glasgow, Barcelona, Porto and against Rangers umpteen time. When I go to see Celtic it’s like I won the lotto.”
He gets that same feeling from managing Clare — the privilege is all his as he prepares for the county’s shot at history on Sunday. “I love it because our lads have such a fantastic attitude,” he says, “and they have confidence and they’re the champions. They’re not arrogant though. I like working with them. I know I’m not their buddies, but any time they’ve played for Clare they’ve been absolutely magnificent.
“I have so much confidence in them. They are great listeners. I don’t say a hell of a lot, more often than not it’s a private little conversation with players. They are great to listen to Denis Hynes who is a top coach.
“We have a great management team, because we’re all different. “I’m old school, Denis is new school as an FAI coach and David Russell is in the middle — he’s old school, but he’s still playing. He knows what’s going on on the ground. I see a lot of games, but David plays in them, so there’s a great combination,” he adds.
On and off the field that combination has swept all before it since Garrihy swapped the Clare League chairman’s blazer for the tracksuit and the sideline.
“I love it and it’s a great challenge,” he says. “I’m not going to talk about going into the lion’s den and all that to play this game. No. It’s another game. We have played there before so it’s an advantage to us.
“Yes Inishowen will have the home support. There could be 1,000 or 1500 people there supporting them, but whatever the number I do know that we have the players and the strategy of turning that crowd against them.
“They came to see us in Wexford, they had a company videoing us and they took away the software. They were right beside our technical area taking their notes. They didn’t hide it. They believed we were going to win, they were doing the work on us. I welcomed them to Wexford. Whatever research they’ve done I commend them — we’ve made the journeys as well though and we watch every team before we play them.”
And it’s this knowledge that Garrihy believes will help Clare carry the day. “Whatever they’ve picked up watching us fair play to them but when it comes down to the melting pot, when the fat is in the fire will all their notes to stand to them,” he says. “You can eat all the pasta in the world, but will it make you kick the ball straight or pass the ball properly.
“In the semi-final against Wexford it was never about revenge for them beating us in the 2010 final because there were different personnel involved. It was a different group of players — a lot of the guys weren’t even there seven years ago. This is different. There’s more familiarity between the two groups of players — we know them and we can beat them.
“Nothing fazes the players. Look at Colin Ryan. He is a big game player — he’s played in All-Ireland finals, National League finals. This won’t faze him. It won’t faze Stephen Kelly, or Eoin Hayes, or Eoin O’Brien or David McCarthy. It won’t faze any of them. I don’t expect them to be any different.”
And he expects Clare to win.