THEY’RE all gone now, with Fr Michéal McInerney being the last one standing before he passed away a few years ago, with him going much of the lore associated with the glory days in Clooney, Quin, Maghera and Carrahan country.
These were the years between 1934 and ’44 when Clooney contested five county finals and five Clare Cup finals, garnering a senior championship title in ’42 and a couple of Clare Cups in ’34 and ’41.
That county final win came against Scariff in Cusack Park, when The Clare Champion noted “it was agreed on all sides it was one of the best county finals for years”.
Clooney won the day by 3-6 to 3-5, with “the sharpshooter of the hour” being county board secretary Michael Hennessy, who had refereed the All-Ireland hurling between Cork and Dublin the previous month.
“All the lads did was hurl,” recalled Eileen McMahon on the occasion of the Clooney-Quin pitch redevelopment opening in 2012. “Even if there was a dance hall they had no money for going out. It was all hurling,” she added.
Her brother was Paddy McNamara, captain of Clooney’s victorious 1942 team and the patriarch of a famous hurling family, with Eileen recalling that “we’d be gone all Sunday, playing matches for the day”.
Four of the McNamara sisters — Eileen, Teresa, Kathleen ‘Dokey’ and Cella — were stars of the club’s camogie team that swept all before it in 1930s and ‘40s after the Clare Camogie Board had been established by Michael Hennessy in 1934. And all four, with Teresa as captain, were part of the Clare team that won the Munster senior title in 1944.
“It was a great period for the club in hurling and camoige,” says current club present Mick Hayes. “I was born in ’43, the year after they won the county and though I neve saw that team play I heard how good they were in later years.
“Seamus Reddan was a very strong player on that team, the O’Hallorans, Con Flanagan, Austin Hannon, Michéal McInerney and Michael Power were others to play that time. The O’Hallorans were the best, while Mick Hennessy played for Clare and for Ireland,” says Hayes.
“They had no hurling field that time. Hurling was played that time in Carmody’s fetid in Creevagh, Gorman’s lawn in Clooney, Gallagher’s in Moyriesk, McMahon’s green in Spancilhill, Carney’s in Rylane and Power’s in Brook Lodge, out towards to Tulla on the back road, on a field that was called the Lawn,” he adds.
This was the pitch belonging to Amy Power, Clare’s All-Ireland winning captain from 1914, when his brother Joe and Michael Flanagan also represented the club on the winning Banner team.
“The Clooney-Quin involvement in 1914 showed that the tradition was always there,” says Hayes, “and it’s a tradition going back to when the Carrahan club won county titles and you had the famous Carrahan Flag competition.”
Hayes succeeded the late Fr McInerney of the 1942 winning squad as club president and is a link with the club’s Junior A championship wining team of 1966, while along with Tony Vaughan he brought Harty Cup glory to the club when being a member of the Ennis CBS team that beat St Flannan’s in the famous all-Clare final of 1962.
“When I started playing we finally had our own pitch in the Hazlewood Estate in Ballyhickey that we got from the Land Commission. We’d cycle there, tog out, leave your gear on the bicycle and covered it with plastic and went out and hurled.
“We had a local man Joe O’Halloran making the hurleys. He was one of the brothers on the ’42 team and he’d make a very good hurley. They’d shoe horses and making hurleys.”
The five O’Halloran brothers — Mick, John James, Thomas and Joe — provide the strongest link to the current Clooney-Quin squad, as the three McNamara brothers in Shane, Ruairi and Michael are their grand-nephews.
Other links bridging the generations are provided by the Duggan cousins, Peter and Cillian, and the Wards, Sean and Padraig, who are grand-nephew of Micko Forde, while Dara Hannon is a grand-nephew of Jimmy Markham.
“There’s great excitement in the parish,” says Hayes, “and it would be great if the gap between the county titles could be bridged. There has always been very good hurlers in Clooney-Quin, because of that great tradition. When we won the Junior in ’66 we just didn’t have the numbers to go any further.
“Emigration was our big problem,” says Hayes, “or lads getting jobs in Dublin or other counties and transport was very expensive to be coming back to games. We had players like Flan Lynch who worked in Dublin, he’s an uncle of Fergal Lynch. He’d come from Dublin to play. Stanley Butler used to come from Dublin.
“Now to finally win another senior title, it would be magnificent for the players and for those who were involved in the club down the years — people who are younger and older than me, people who are no longer with us. People like Pat Conroy, he was just brilliant to look after things as field manager. It would be great for the work they did that if we could win this final. It would be special.”
Indeed, it would be a throwback to 1914 all over again. That’s when the Great Southern Railways Cup, the All-Ireland trophy of the day, came to Quin and time seemed to stand still.
Back then captain Amby Power brought the cup back to Reddan’s in the village, the pub that his wife had inherited, and as the celebrations stretched long into the night and beyond the local members of the RIC constabulary didn’t so much as turn a blind eye to the licensing laws, but joined in the revelry themselves.
And it was the same in 2006 after four Tulla pipers and two drummers paraded the Clooney-Quin team captained by Pat Markham that won the Munster intermediate title into the village.
Once senses that the of 1914 or ’06, not forgetting ’42, wouldn’t hold a hurley to ’17 if the Canon Hamilton comes home on Sunday night.
As for the licensing laws, let’s just say that tradition and customs die hard. Very hard.