Fr Harry Bohan is 80 but you wouldn’t know it. Taking the call, he’s buzzing. He’s just left the new St Finnachta’s National School in Sixmilebridge, festooned in ‘Up The ’Bridge’ banners but not without the odd nod to Cratloe.
Clare county final fever has gripped the village and he is not immune. Three times he rings back with more information. In paying homage to those who have made the club what it is, like the good shepherd, the patron of Sixmilebridge GAA club and 14 years its parish priest doesn’t want to leave anybody out.
“Don’t forget Paddy Morey, Seadna’s father”.
“And you’ll give a nod to Noel Casey — I’d be killed otherwise!”
“And you can’t not mention the Chaplins (Christy, Danny, David and John). You will, won’t you?” Seán Stack, Gerry McInerney, Davy Fitzgerald and Niall Gilligan get obvious mentions too.
In St Finnachta’s Church tomorrow morning, he’ll be minding his p’s and q’s with his sermon given that the Cratloe parish forms part of Sixmilebridge.
“I have to be very careful. There will be Cratloe people at that Mass. Sixmilebridge and Cratloe people go to the same shops and so on. There’s a big overlap.
“When two neighbouring parishes meet in a county final or any important championship match, you will never get more tension. For me growing up, it was Feakle and Scariff and Sixmilebridge and Newmarket would be a big one here as well but with Cratloe, a lot of these lads went to school together.”
Presiding over the wedding ceremony of Davy Fitzgerald and Sharon O’Loughlin in Dromoland Castle last Friday week, Bohan couldn’t help but mention tomorrow’s decider.
The Sixmilebridge coach this year working alongside manager Tim Crowe after the pair mended fences. Fitzgerald himself couldn’t resist touching on it in his speech either when he spoke of his friendship with his former Clare selector Mike Deegan, Cratloe’s coach, and how they would ‘park it’ for 60 minutes before renewing it again after the final whistle.
There are several subplots to this game, Fitzgerald’s public falling out with Cratloe’s Tony Considine and some of the differences the Cratloe contingent on the Clare team had with Fitzgerald towards the end of his time in charge of the Banner being two of them.
But it’s the fact there are so few degrees of separation between the villages only 6km apart that makes it intriguing.
Earlier this week, Crowe told The Clare Champion about two of his daughters being married to Cratloe men, one of them Mikey Hawes who will line out for them and is currently living with the Crowe family as they save for a mortgage:
There have been a lot of women stolen from The ’Bridge and women stolen from Cratloe to make marriages between them. You will have a lot of divided houses at the weekend, with different sides being painted, including my own.
And Bohan’s admiration for Cratloe can’t be disguised.
“When I had the Clare team (Bohan was former county manager) the stand-outCratloe man on the team was Jackie O’Gorman. He was a stand-out man in Clare anyhow. I hurled in a semi-final (when Bohan played for Feakle) against The ’Bridge but Cratloe, I’d say, for all those years had a junior team.
“The funny thing was that up until the late 1970s, The ’Bridge didn’t win championships either until Seán Stack’s time even though they would have been there or thereabouts.
“Now, not only do Cratloe have a senior team competing seriously in hurling but in football as well.
The Cratloe population grew big time. People like the Murphys who played football for Clare would live there now. Colm Collins moved there too while Conor McGrath’s father is a Toomevara man.
But closer to home it’s what Sixmilebridge GAA club is doing for its young and old as the centre of the community that delights Bohan most.
“It’s an absolutely super club. The number of young people this club accommodates is enormous. They have the arena and a whole lot of other developments, which means, in turn, there are a huge number of volunteers involved. We’ve a great scouts club, a great soccer club and they are needed because we have a population of 6,000 in The ’Bridge now.
“He wouldn’t want me to do this but they have had great chairpersons down through the years and Paddy Meehan, the current chairman, is a super guy and he has done a massive job.
“Paddy Meehan and people like him can see the bigger picture, the value there is in not just playing the game but being involved. We do a lot of work in The ’Bridge with parents on values and things like that, and the lads in charge of the U16s like Brian Culbert, they have 42 in the panel but they have a values programme.
“Each youngster does something for somebody in the community. There’s a whole growth of the concept of values within the place.
“I’m not talking about religion but values and the way we should live and conduct ourselves, look after old people, that type of thing. That’s marvellous to have that growing up within the GAA.”