Kilmurry must face final with right attitude

PAT HANRAHAN can sympathise with Pat O’Dwyer of Kilmurry-Ibrickane.

Hanrahan coached Doonbeg of Clare to Munster club final success in 1998 and knows the challenges facing O'Dwyer and his charges in tomorrow's clash with Stradbally of Waterford.

For Hanrahan, attitude is a huge factor. "The tension of being so close to winning has a way of affecting players," he says. "The build-up can become claustrophobic. You see that better after the game than before, oddly enough.

"I remember when we won in 1998 we were delighted, of course, but we were also exhausted; one of the other selectors said to me he felt more relief than anything else, because it had been hanging over us for years."

Hanrahan breaks that pressure down into its provincial and local component parts: "You're carrying the burden of expectation for your entire county, and that affects lads.

"Kilmurry-Ibrickane will know that this kind of chance won't come again, or certainly not for a long time, so that adds to the pressure as well.

"You prepare lads as well as you can, but on the Sunday morning they wake up and realise they have the chance to become a local hero for the rest of their lives, and that has an effect on them. To be honest, it can destroy some fellas."

Hanrahan knows whereof he speaks. Doonbeg's black and white jerseys were a common sight in 1990s winters as they chased the holy grail.

"I remember when we played Dr Crokes in the 1991 final we probably had better players than them in some parts of the field, but we still lost. They believed they could win, and that's the difference between the likes of Cork and Kerry and the weaker counties they're fighting a tradition of failure, which is hard to overcome, before beating another side."

Other pitfalls can complicate matters too, and Hanrahan warns his fellow county-men against a common trap. "They overcame the Kerry team, Milltown-Castlemaine, so they'll have to guard against being overconfident.

"In 1998 we were lucky in that we weren't favourites. Moyle Rovers had Declan Browne, who was one of the best footballers in the country and still is and we knew we'd have to be at our best to beat them. Stradbally won't have anyone of that calibre, so a lot depends on how Kilmurry-Ibrickane handle being favourites.

"The opposite happened to us in 1999. We beat Laune Rangers, but then it became very hard to lift the players for the final, and we had a pretty bad day against UCC." In 1998, however, it all went right. Looking back, Hanrahan freely admits that Doonbeg were lucky to get a replay but feels that was due reward for a side that had soldiered together since the late 1980s, gathering valuable experience, not all of it in the club jersey.

"Playing in the Munster club for a few years obviously stood to us, but so did the fact that we had good individuals who'd played in 1992 when Clare won the Munster Championship.

"Having the likes of Francie McInerney and Gerry Killeen was a great help to us; it meant you knew you had players of stature who could stand up when the game went against you.

"Kilmurry-Ibrickane are a very talented outfit; they've worked hard as a club to get their underage structures in place and other clubs could do worse than to see how those structures operate.

"They'll have a lot of those good young lads playing tomorrow, but a lot of the game will come down to attitude. It's not just a matter of having nice players; speed won't be as much of an issue, particularly if it's a wet day, and players must have the character to hang on in there for 60 minutes."

Doonbeg will be looking to the likes of the two O'Dwyers, Odran and Michael, and Johnny Daly, to perform. "They're the main men when it gets tight," says Hanrahan, who goes on to acknowledge the old saw about a rising tide lifting all boats.

"It's great for the county to see a club in the provincial final; it gives a boost to the domestic scene to know one of your own clubs is doing so well.

"There wouldn't be an awful lot between Kilmurry-Ibrickane and

Stradbally so a lot comes down to preparing the team for the game, not the occasion."

Still, a Clare-Waterford Munster football final is enough of a novelty to be an occasion, and Hanrahan will be setting aside parochial rivalry for a couple of hours in Thurles.

"I'm going tomorrow. I'll be wishing Kilmurry-Ibrickane all the best, even though we'd be close rivals for the rest of the year.

"We'll be trying to knock them off their perch next year, but then again, that's what it's all about!"

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