Mulcair: We need to push on in Munster

YOU thought conditions at the Clare senior hurling final were bad on Sunday last?

Forget it, says former Crusheen stalwart Andy Mulcair: “When we played Newmarket in the 1974 final it was worse – during the parade the water came in over my boots!”

Nevertheless, it was bad, so bad that even Crusheen manager Michael Browne, guiding his side to back-to-back titles, was moved to remark that when it came to quality hurling the soaked attendance witnessed only “a few outbreaks of it here and there.”

Still, a win is a win, a county title is a county title, and having made the breakthrough only last year then falling at the first hurdle in Munster, Michael and Crusheen are determined to do a whole lot better in the provincial championship this time around.

“We focused in on Munster big-time last year as well, but the difference then was we had only two weeks to get ready, which, allowing for the celebrations, was really only one week.

“This year we have an extra week. (they don’t play Cork champions Carrigtwohill until November 13).

“We thought we were ready last year but we got caught,” he continues.

“We were ahead of Kilmallock for a lot of the game but gave up two goals in a couple of minutes after half-time, goals that should never have been conceded.

“We brought it back to a point or two but lost. We’re still smarting from that, now we have a chance to make amends. We’ll be doing everything in our power to progress this year.

“I haven’t seen Carrigtwohill yet but we’ll have our research done.”

Michael is a teacher in Clarinbridge and even though he hasn’t been involved with them for many years, he still had a big influence on the team that won the All-Ireland for the Galway club earlier this year.

“With the school I would have coached 11 or 12 of those who actually played. I went there in the early 80s, and while they had a great hurling tradition they didn’t have much of a team at the time. We got stuck into it, a few of us, started off at U-12 and ploughed our way up through the age-groups, right up to reaching a senior final in 1996, which we lost. At that stage I decided we’ve brought them this far, time for someone else to step in.

“In 2001 then they won their first county title, last year they won their first All-Ireland, so they’ve made great progress. My own club though is Crusheen, always was. That’s where I still live, and after winning a county with Tulla in 2007 I got involved with the club here.”

The bedrock of the Crusheen success is a defence that features two sets of brothers, the three Dillon’s (Cronan at full-back, Cian at centre and Cathal on the left wing), two Brigdale’s (John and Alan in the right and left corners respectively) and Ciarán O’Doherty at left-half-back, all fronting the talented Donal Touhy in goal.

“It’s a good defence, yes, but there’s a lot of talent in the team overall,” says Mulcair. “The forwards had been criticised as being the weak link but they’ve picked it up a lot this year, playing a lot better than we were before.”

Could Crusheen be dark horses for this year’s Munster title? “We’ll see,” he laughs. “First step first. I would have been very disappointed from last year, we didn’t do ourselves justice. We have a chance now to rectify that; celebrate what we’ve done now, which is a great achievement in itself, but once that’s out of the way, get down to business for Munster again.”

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