CLARE SHC FINA:
Newmarket on Fergus V Sixmilebridge
Christy Ryan cannot remember what age he was in 1976.
All he knows is he will be 60 in 2014. He does remember, however, he definitely played in goals for Newmarket in their 1-11 to 1-5 win over Sixmilebridge in the Clare county final 37 years ago.
Sunday’s county final will be just the second final meeting between the Blues and the ’Bridge, but the Ryan link continues in the form of Christy’s nephew Colin, who is one of holders’ key men.
Christy, who won seven county medals in his time, is confident Newmarket can retain the Canon Hamilton cup.
“We’re the county champions and we should be confident enough to win it, but, then again, we haven’t beaten the ’Bridge in years in championship. But, of course, we beat them in the ’76 final and they have never beaten us in a county final,” he said.
Beaten in ’76, Sixmilebridge won their first senior title the following year.
“The ’Bridge wouldn’t have been heard of before then. They were only a junior club up until the ’70s,” Christy helpfully pointed out.
These days goalkeepers have plenty to occupy their thoughts. It’s not just about preventing the ball from nestling behind them. Puck out strategy is all the rage. A keeper who can’t find his man won’t last long. Not that these thoughts kept Christy awake at night in the mid 1970s.
“I had a fairly simple puck out strategy; get it down to the other end of the field and get it over or under the bar as soon as possible. There was no tactics that time. When the ball came, you moved it on to the next position as soon as you could.”
Generally goalkeepers are a confident bunch. Christy definitely doesn’t seem to have harboured many doubts about his ability between the posts.
“I was brilliant at everything. I had a long puck out although fitness wise I wouldn’t have been the best,” he acknowledged.
“I knew how to block the ball and that was the main thing. I suppose I was a little bit bigger than Fitzy [Davy Fitzgerald] which was a help as a goalkeeper,” he added. If Christy was that good how did Sixmilebridge manage to raise a green flag?
“I think it was a 21-yard free. You could never do anything about any goal that went in because it’s already gone in,” Christy explained in a way that seems to make sense to him.
The genial Newmarket man has found the build-up to this final hasn’t quite captured the imagination yet. Of course both semi-finals were only played last weekend, but Christy feels only true diehards have a feel for the club game.
“It’s very low key for everybody. With the Clare team winning the All-Ireland it was fantastic. But the supporters that go to county matches are not the same as those that go to club matches. 75% of the people that follow Clare don’t go to club matches,” Christy calculates. While Colin Ryan will be a central player on Sunday in Cusack Park, Christy feels Sixmilebridge veteran Niall Gilligan (37) will also have an influential role. “The clock is going backwards all the time for him.
“He has to be respected. He’s still a great player at such a young age. That’s worth me ten pints off Gilly,” the former Newmarket-on-Fergus number one laughed.
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