First Banner victory in 87 years would be sweet music for local fans

Not a bad week to be a Clare GAA supporter.

Senior hurlers 70 minutes from Croke Park, minor hurlers an hour away from a third successive Munster title, senior footballers far from disgraced at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday and still alive in the championship.

Next up is the not so insignificant matter of a Munster junior football championship final against Kerry this evening. Colm Collins, father of Clare senior hurling panellists Sean and Paudge, is team manager and cannot get his head around the fact that the Banner County have not won a Munster JFC crown since 1925.

“I’m afraid so,” he smiles. “Lord God almighty – 87 years.”

But the hope is that Clare won’t lack for support this evening with the 2012 Willie Clancy Festival in full swing in Miltown Malbay. Collins explained: “The place is packed. We trained there on Monday night and the place is jammers. If we can coax a few of them down, there should be a great crowd for the final. There’s a marvellous feel around the town.”

Former county board chairman and Clare junior team liaison officer Michael ‘Malty’ McDonagh played a key role in bringing the final to Miltown Malbay. Collins confirmed: “Malty was one of the guys pushing this. He felt that there was an opportunity to have a bigger than average crowd at a Munster junior final. And it’s a lovely pitch there – dead on.” And if Clare can pull off a shock, they’ll be tempted to parade silverware in the marquee, where the Kilfenora Céilí Band are due to play tonight.

“Perhaps!” Collins laughs. “And the pressure is off us really. The senior hurlers are playing next Saturday and the minor hurlers on Sunday – there really is very little about us. And I’m hoping that we can create a bit of history, all going well.

“I’d be very familiar with some of the Kerry players – I was involved with the Cratloe team beaten in the Munster final by Spa (2009).

“They have three very good players – Mike O’Donoghue, Andrew Garnett and Niall O’Mahony. We’ll try to keep them quiet for one night.”

Collins, who also serves as manager of the county’s U21 football team, will have a side backboned by members of the Kilmurry-Ibrickane team crowned Munster senior club champions in 2009. He said: “They’ve proved that they can play at the top level and it’s 20 years since Clare beat Kerry in the 1992 Munster senior final. Maybe that’s an omen!”

KERRY: S Óg Ó Ciardubháin, (Cordal); K Quirke, (Duagh), P Corridan, (Finuge), K O’Dwyer, (Waterville); M Brennan, (Churchill), J Sherwood, (Firies), M Mangan (C), (Milltown/Castlemaine); A Garnett, (Spa), A O’Sullivan, (Tuosist); N O’Mahony, (Spa), N Ó Sé, (Piarsaigh na Dromada), P O’Donoghue, (St. Mary’s); D O’Callaghan, (St Pat’s Blennerville), M O’Donoghue, (Spa), C Cox (Listowel Emmet’s).

Subs: S O’Dee, (Beale), B O Mahoney, (John Mitchels), S O’Brien, (Kenmare), N Fitzgerald, (Waterville), J Hickson, (Annascaul), C Moriarty, (Milltown Castlemaine) , B Poff, (St Pats Blennerville), E Walsh, (Knocknagoshel), C Kerins, (Milltown Castlemaine).

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