Expressing similar sentiments and hoping for a similar result this weekend at senior level is Crusheen captain Gerry O’Grady, as they head for Thurles to face Limerick champions Na Piarsaigh.
“It’s been brilliant so far,” he admits. “It is definitely shortening the winter. Whatever way it goes, we won’t feel the time passing until Christmas.”
O’Grady is more aware than most of the problems facing people in this economic climate, the troubles facing young people especially. On the road night and day for Enterprise Ireland, he’s meeting all the tales of hardship, of individuals and even of entire families forced to emigrate.
“We’re in contact with the various GAA clubs around the world, reaching out to them to try entice people back to us if an opportunity arises. But so many are having to emigrate and the worry is they may not come back.”
Hurling is providing a welcome diversion from that harsh reality, for O’Grady, his team and the entire parish.
“The nice thing about the Munster club this year is that we’ve been on the road. Last year we played Kilmallock in Cusack Park and you didn’t get a great sense of there being any difference between the Clare championship and Munster, whereas this year we’ve been to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and are now heading for Semple Stadium, two iconic GAA grounds in Munster. There’s a sense of a different journey about it, for the supporters as much as for us.”
This journey is in stark contrast to last year when they fell at the first hurdle, in their first year as Clare senior champions. But the lessons learned proved vital in their victory over Cork champions Carrigtwohill last time out. “We were disappointed with last year and the way we went under to Kilmallock. We didn’t play as well as we’d played in winning the championship in Clare. When you’re representing your county you want to play to the best of your ability and we didn’t do that last year. Against Carrigtwohill we did, hopefully we do the same Sunday.”
The Clare champions are a very good hurling side, strong and athletic, but also highly talented.
And O’Grady believes one man is to thank for such a skill set.
“Gerry Kearney, our primary school principal in Crusheen developed the hurling skills in us and that has stood us in good stead through our careers. We came up from winning the intermediate championship in 2000 to winning the senior championship for the first time in 2010 and all the way we’ve tried to play hurling, show our skills.
“Gerry developed that in all of us, apart from David Forde (formerly Ogonolloe). David broke our heart one year in a school’s final, again in an intermediate final in 2005, maybe it’s karma he’s thrown his lot in with us!”