DONAL MOLONEY reckons it was about 15 years since he’d laid eyes on his former school friend Gerry O’Connor when he walked into the Half Way House bar in Ennis a few years back.
The former classmates in Scariff Community College got talking and inevitably their conversations drifted towards their favourite hobby horse, Clare hurling. It wasn’t long before they plotting on how to develop the game in their county and those embryonic moments have paved the way for tomorrow afternoon in Croke Park, where the Clare minor hurling side they jointly manage will take on Kilkenny in the ESB All-Ireland MHC final. The concept of joint managers may seem unworkable to many but both Moloney and O’Connor are highly enthused by it.
“Gerry and myself have been discussing this for four or five years, first of all how the hell we would get in charge of the minors and second of all, how were we going to be successful,” remarks Moloney. “That’s been our relationship. We’ve worked off the principle that two heads are better than one. I couldn’t do it without him and he couldn’t do it without me. We both have our strengths and weaknesses. We both absolutely support each other and we try to do what’s best for the team.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to us,” says O’Connor. “I work for a Dublin company and Donal works down in Cork. There’s no way we could both do our jobs and commit the time that’s needed for the team. We have our chats about the team at six in the morning when we’re both on the road and we bounce ideas off each other then. It’s worked fierce well. Donal is brilliant at looking at DVDs, analysing things and getting the tactics right on the day as regards ourselves and the opposition. I’d be good at organising and planning. It works very well that way.”
Moloney’s nine to five takes place in the Depuy plant in Ringaskiddy in Cork, where Donal Óg Cusack is one of his work companions, and he credits the Cloyne man as a strong influence.
“We have chats now and again about hurling, what his hopes are in terms of seniors and what my hopes are in terms of minors. He’s another great hurling man. Last year, I brought down the minor goalies from Clare and he spent five hours working with them. What he did was absolutely incredible. They’ll never forget the tuition, the instruction and the attention to detail that man went through that day.”
Clare’s season has been a rollercoaster campaign with an opening day loss to Waterford preceding four impressive victories. There’s been plenty off-field duties to factor into their preparations as well.
“The players have had the Leaving Cert results, the CAO offers, Debs and a whole host of distractions,” says O’Connor. “It’s a fair old challenge for the players because they’ve clubs wanting them as well as the county, and these lads weren’t just going for 100 or 200 points in the Leaving. They’re bright lads. But that’s the challenge with every minor team and it’s myself and Donal’s job to prepare the team, and take care of those logistics.”
The challenge facing them now before they land honours is considerable as they face a gilded Kilkenny outfit.
“Kilkenny turned on a five-star display two weeks ago,” admits Moloney. “They were breathtaking in some of what they did. Richie Mulrooney, to be honest, has been instrumental, ironically, in helping us to get to this stage. Over the past two years, we’ve played them five times, he’s a gentleman in coming down to play us in Clare. We haven’t won an awful lot but these lads have come up trumps for us this year. Hopefully they can do it again.”
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