IT was a long time coming, but it was the right time.
It was the Ballyea celebration of their brilliant 2016 achievements when they scaled the heights of county senior championship and Munster championship glory.
Landmark achievements when they mapped themselves on the Clare Senior Hurling Championship roll of honour for the first time and then mapped Clare on the Munster Senior Hurling Championship roll of honour for the first time since 2000 when Sixmilebridge won their third provincial title.
Indeed, it’s worth rewinding to when the Munster title came to Clare after that 16-year gap on the back of a 1-21 to 2-10 win over storied Glen Rovers on 20 November, 2016 in Semple Stadium.
Gearóid O’Connell’s tour de force from centre-back when he hit 0-3 in a man-of-the-match display; Tony Kelly’s sublime brilliance as he ghosted around Semple and hit 0-5 from play; goalscorer Pearse Lillis; Pat Joe Connolly’s three precious points; captain Stan Lineen and the cameo at the end when veteran Paddy O’Connell got on the field of play as a fitting denouement for his many years of service to the black and amber.
And there was much more.
Like the euphoria of everyone, yet the calm of manager Robbie Hogan as he reflected on it all minutes after Mount Munster had been scaled.
“In one word,” he smiled, before pausing and giving much more than that.
“Unreal,” he said. “Unbelievable. You win a county title and things can’t get better. We didn’t even get to absorb that we were county champions. It’s just unbelievable stuff.”
Hogan had just been handed a DVD — it was the DVD of the Munster final win with a tagline of Ballyea Munster Champions.
“You’d have been committed if that was said a couple of months ago,” he laughed “We’re only a small club, we’re not even a village, we don’t have a speed bump or traffic lights in Ballyea.
“But we’ve great pride and the lads showed there that they have great heart. If you have pride and heart you will go a long way in life and the boys were just outstanding to work with it,” he added.
And with 1-18 of Ballyea’s haul of 1-21 coming from play it was arguably the most outstanding display ever produced by a Clare team in a Munster club final — outstanding on a number of different levels.
“Tradition is great but we weren’t marking a name, we were just marking a jersey,” said Hogan. “We have great pride in our own jersey and the lads showed when they just tore into it.
“But the real character came out in the second half when they hit us for a few scores early on. It came back to a one score game. It was composure and trust — that letter T again. We keep going on about it. That’s what the lads have showed in abundance this year. It was trust, trust in what we were doing.
“The lads weren’t waiting around for someone to make it happen — they did it themselves. That’s another motto, ‘don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen’. That’s what the lads did — the so-called fringe players stood up and were outstanding,” he added.
Those so-called fringe players, as well as the bluebloods like Tony Kelly, Gearóid O’Connell, Niall Deasy and Gary Brennan, were celebrated in equal measure on 22 December last in the West County Hotel.
“When that bus goes back to Ballyea it will be officially Christmas,” Hogan had remarked after the Munster final win over 13 months ago.
As it turned out, Ballyea got two Christmases out of their 2016 exploits.
Any why not?
It’s the least their great victories deserved.
Main Pic: Stan Lineen with Lisa Glynn and Moirah Lineen holding the county and Munster cups. Photos: Natasha Barton
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