Browne is manager of the Crusheen side which this month won its first Clare SHC title. Three years ago he ended Tulla’s 74-year wait for a senior crown. Their victims in that final? Crusheen, Michael’s home parish. So it’s been a memorable few weeks for the genial Browne.
He explained: “Whenever you win a county title with any team there’s great satisfaction but to win for the first time is extra special. With Tulla it was almost the same thing, they hadn’t won it in over 50 years, but to do it with my own club, having already trained Tulla a couple of years earlier, made it all the sweeter.”
Crusheen’s success continues a trend of new faces emerging from the Banner in recent seasons.
“We’ve had four different winners in Clare in the last four years, and two of those – Crusheen and Cratloe – for the first time in their histories, while Clonlara had only won it once, and Tulla were 74 years with the title.
“Isn’t it fantastic? It’s hard to say exactly why this is. I’d be familiar with the Galway scene and we don’t have any dominant team in Clare at the moment like Portumna were in Galway for the last few years, so maybe that’s a factor. The big clubs like Sixmilebridge, Clarecastle, Wolfe Tones and those haven’t been as strong, and another traditional club, Newmarket, has been trying to make their own breakthrough but that’s not working for them yet.
“Some of those big clubs would have dominated for five years, 10 years, at a stretch. That’s not the case now which allows other clubs to come through and take their chance – thankfully Crusheen has now joined those ranks.”
Indeed they have, and this weekend, apart altogether from the game against Kilmallock, they could even go one better again. “We’re in the junior A final as well, against Newmarket-on-Fergus on Saturday. It is an unbelievable achievement for such a small club to have two adult teams in two county finals in the one year. That’s testament to all the hard work that’s been done down through the years.”
Browne is well aware of the threat posed by the Tony Considine-managed Limerick champions.
“We’d all be familiar with Tony, a big man in Clare, and of course he’d be familiar with us here in Crusheen – I saw him at the county final and the semi-final replay.”
Advantage Kilmallock there then, whom Michael has never seen, though he has been through the DVD of their county final win over Emmets.
“I know they’re a youngish side with a lot of titles at underage and watching them on that DVD they’re a team with a lot of talent. Andrew O’Shaughnessy is a legend but they have a lot of very talented young players as well, like the Mulcahy brothers up front – a lot of fellas who have played minor, U21 and senior with Limerick.
“They’re a formidable team who look very lively and play a fast brand of hurling. I’ve no doubt they’ll provide us with a lot of problems, but we’ll do our best to be ready. Mind you, the fact that we’ve had only two weeks where they’ve had four or five, is an advantage for them, especially when this was our first title – it was a bit of a struggle to get back to the grindstone and get ready again, but we’ve done it. We’ll see now how it goes.”
Defence is crucial to the Crusheen game plan, with the three Dillon brothers forming the bulwark.
“Cronan at full-back is the oldest with Cathal at wing-back and Cian at centre-back. They are three great lads, we have another set of brothers also, the Brigdales while Ciarán O’Doherty was Clare U21 captain that won the All-Ireland title last year. Those six backs are as good a unit as what is in Clare. They work very well together, and that’s been our launch-pad all year. Having said that, our midfield is formidable also, Paddy Vaughan is there, who has played for Clare for a number of years.
“I know our scoring record wasn’t great in the early rounds but we’ve been improving gradually, and 2-13 in the final wasn’t a bad total – we’re getting there.”
Getting there? Crusheen have arrived, and in some style.