25 hallmarks of the real Clare hurling fan ...

The original Banner Banger will be tuned up and ready for road again come final day, with the bottom of the Hill in Shannon chosen as the symbolic starting point of the journey.
25 hallmarks of the real Clare hurling fan ...

1) You know the words by heart and get emotional hearing them. Move over Joe Connolly, Páidí Ó Sé and Dara Ó Cinnéide, but this was the greatest speech of them all: “There’s being a missing person in Clare for 81 long years, well today that person has been found alive and well and that person’s name is Liam MacCarthy. We have listened to many, many jibes down the years, we were told to stick to our traditional music, well in Clare we love our traditional music but we love our hurling too.”

2) Dalo’s other great oration is memory-banked too, the valedictory stand by de Banks after the ’97 Munster final when he told Tipperary and blue bloods everywhere that “our mission was to show that we’re no longer the whipping boys of Munster”.

3) Of course, you believe you know where Dalo was coming from — the Gaelic Grounds in ’93 when you were temporarily blinded by the glare of Nicky English’s (inset) extra-white gumshield giving off smiles and high-fives all round him as the Premier routed your heroes by 3-27 to 2-12 in the Munster final.

4) After that dark day on the Ennis Road and in Thurles in ’94 you stepped up nobly and offered what Dalo called “a safehouse near Quilty” so himself and a few more Magpies could lie low and take in the Willie Clancy Summer.

5) You never lost the faith and were among the paltry 14,101 in the Gaelic Grounds for the first round against Cork in ’95 when Sean ‘Shoulder’ McMahon was born and the Loughnane era began.

6) And, you stayed to the bitter end — on Loughnane’s last day in 2000 you weren’t among those thousands of supporters streaming away from Páirc Uí Chaoimh with 20 minutes remaining as Tipperary cruised to a 2-19 to 1-14 win.

7) You have a soft spot for Wynns Hotel on Abbey Street on All-Ireland days — going there in homage to where the team of 1914 celebrated their All-Ireland and because you fully believe the pilgrimage might help dame fortune smile on Clare.

8) The first time you saw Croker was not in ’95, but in ’92 when John Maughan’s army marched on Dublin in the biggest Dalcassian invasion of Anna Livia since Brian Boru’s shindig in Clontarf. And 21 years on, you still whisper it being the greatest day because Clare, in Johnny Callinan’s words, had “taken their place amongst the counties of the world”.

9) Dolla in Tipperary was always your favourite pit-stop en route from Thurles after the National League wins in ’77 and ’78 — to enjoy the ceol, ól agus craic with All-Ireland winner Dr Bill Loughnane and his Tulla Céilí Band on tour.

10) And, when you eventually crossed the Shannon into Clare, you headed for Nuggies — Michael Nihill’s bar in the shadow of the O’Connell Monument in Ennis, headquarters of all celebrations.

11) You became totally committed to St James’ Gate because of Guinness’ All-Ireland slogans: ‘It’s been hell for leather…Not men but giants…This man can break hearts at 70 yards’ that were about Clare and no other team.

12) The Banner Banger you travelled in to the 1995 All-Ireland final is revved up again and ready for road on Sunday, with bottom of the Hill in Shannon chosen as the symbolic starting point of the journey.

13) On the road you’ll go back in time and load your cassette tape that sings Kieran McDermott’s Banner Roar, Tony Considine’s My Lovely Rose of Clare, Aaron Esley’s Come on the Banner 1995, while practicing your ‘Clare Shout’ as you go.

14) Another favourite on the playlist is Ger Loughnane’s address to the Clare nation and those beyond in ’98: Clare FM and the epic interview with Colm O’Connor — now of the Irish Examiner’s house — that brought Clare to a standstill.

15) There was nothing amiss at the start of the 1998 Munster final replay between Clare and Waterford in Thurles — sure like Dalo said afterwards, ‘t’was more like handbagging than anything else’.

16) You were with Colin Lynch every step of the way after the fall-out — camping outside the Limerick Inn for that stormy Munster Council meeting, because as Loughnane said, he was “hung out to dry” by the three priests, Don Corleone and a few more.

17) And you were there again when Jimmy Cooney blew that whistle, but more than that were within earshot of the Croke Park guru who said Lynch’s suspension would be lifted if Clare agreed to give Offaly a re-fixture.

18) You know where former Bishop of Killaloe Dr Willie Walsh will say mass on All-Ireland morning, just to hear his ‘Hurlers Prayer’ — the message to God in ’95 when he said: “Yeah, I know Lord that you can’t take sides, but maybe if there was the odd lucky break going, you might let it run our way, sort of by accident, nobody need know.”

19) Green became your favourite colour in ’95 in homage to Brian Lohan’s helmet — now you’ve switched colours to red because of David McInerney’s heroics on the edge of the square.

20) Your favourite full-back story dates from the ’54 Oireachtas final, the one about how Big Dan McInerney stopped the ‘Boy from Killane’ Nickey Rackard — he sat down on top of him.

21) The injustice meted out to another great full-back still rankles after 36 years — the ’77 Munster final when Jim Power was marched by referee Noel Dalton and you believe Fr Harry Bohan should have whipped the Clare team off the field straight away in protest.

22) Jim Power’s Tulla holds a special place in your heart because ’Goggles’ Doyle lived there, because of Tommy Daly, because of the unbeaten run there in the 1970s at the field that bears his name, because of the Hill and because you know Bryan MacMahon’s ballad in tribute to “the greatest goalman who ever clutched a ball”.

23) You remember the ‘Tut’ — Aidan Tuttle — doing his video commentaries in Tulla and rank him up there with greats of the commentating game like O’Hehir and Ó Muircheartaigh.

24) Like ’95 you never lost the faith, being among the 12,103 in Semple Stadium this June for the championship opener against Waterford — now you’re struggling to get an All-Ireland ticket.

25) But you’ll be there on Sunday to see a winning point like Jamesie’s, a winning save like Davy’s or a winning goal like Taaffe’s, because you were right beside Jimmy Smyth the day he said: “We thirst, we starve for Clare.”

This article appeared in the Examiner's All-Ireland Hurling Final supplement on Saturday September 7.

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