Blink and you’ve missed it, the village of Tubber that is.
Harsh? Not quite.
Take a drive through the north Clare parish and you’ll quickly get the picture. The local primary school and church take shape in the centre of the village, Conor Engineering is to be found out the Crusheen road, while the local watering holes, O’Grady’s and Finnerty’s, are both located on the stretch into Gort. Tubber, in a nutshell.
“There would be no more than 350-400 people around these parts,” explains club chairman Enda O’Connor.
O’Connor has an added interest in tomorrow’s final with nephew Patrick lining out at wing-back, continuing a tradition which saw his father Pat and uncle also don the Clare colours.
Indeed, with local custodian Ronan Taffe set to stand between the sticks in Saturday’s U21 decider it promises to be a busy fortnight for the club’s hurling enthusiasts.
“Let’s just hope that it is a fruitful two weeks,” laughs O’Connor. “For a club as small as ours to have anyone involved in fantastic. We would have a senior panel of no more than 21 or 22, we amalgamate with Crusheen at underage because neither could survive on their own. We only reached one county senior final and our trophy cabinet wouldn’t be exactly bursting at the seams.”
Small in size it may be, but Tubber’s hurling grá is more than a match for the strongholds like Newmarket-on-Fergus and Sixmilebridge.
Flags, bunting and ‘good luck’ signs dominate the rural landscape, while across from the legendary Taffe household sit five five-litre plastic bottles, all full to the brim with sand, a Clare flag dug into each one.
“Hurling is our life. It is all we do out here,” continued O’Connor. “Pat always had the potential growing up, but you often see lads with plenty of skill as youngsters and they drop of or don’t stay with it for some reason or other. He was always a good hurler, but over this past year he has made great strides, sharpened up hugely.”
And his love of the club is constant: “We played a challenge match on Thursday evening against St. Thomas’ and Pat came down and was on the sideline. He’d always make the effort to get down for training and challenge matches even though he can’t tog out.”
Across the divide in neighbouring Gort, Martin Kerins asserts the town has been gripped by All-Ireland hurling final fever...and he’s not talking about the minor game.
In almost every household along the R460 sits a Galway flag on one pillar and its Clare equivalent on the other.
“You’d swear Gort was in Clare this week such is the buzz about the place.
“There has always been a great rivalry between the two clubs, but all the Tubber people conduct their business in the town and sure we’d count Pat O’Connor as one of our own given he was educated in the Community School in Gort.”
Kerins doesn’t forget to throw a mention to their own Mattie Murphy. The Gort native will attempt to secure a seventh All-Ireland minor crown as manager tomorrow afternoon: “It’s some record, isn’t it? That man has worked wonders down through the years.”
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