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Clare dual stars, Limerick coaching help and stopping Loughmore's double bid

It’s a major occasion for Éire Óg Ennis as they return to Munster club action tomorrow.

Gavin Cooney, David Reidy and Darren O'Neill are all involved with Éire Óg Ennis.
Gavin Cooney, David Reidy and Darren O'Neill are all involved with Éire Óg Ennis.
Image: INPHO

THE WONDROUS TALE of Loughmore-Castleiney sweeping through Tipperary on the double title trail, conquering all before them and coping with a relentless schedule of games, has lit up the club championships this autumn and winter.

Tomorrow they move outside their local borders and venture into Munster action, their community heading towards Cusack Park for a Munster football quarter-final.

It’s also a landmark day for their opponents, the Éire Óg club in Ennis stepping out onto the provincial stage for the first time in 15 years after they recently reclaimed the Jack Daly Cup.

“Little did we think it’d be 15 years before we played another Munster campaign,” says Éire Óg manager Paul Madden, a player when the club lost convincingly to Nemo Rangers in 2006.

“Being honest, every year the county final has been the Holy Grail. For the last number of years we’ve come up short in quarter-finals narrowly. We knew there was talent and potential, it was very frustrating. That was the goal the start of the year, to get one step further in Clare.

“We find ourselves in sort of unchartered waters now.”

They can relate to and appreciate what Loughmore-Castleiney have achieved.

Éire Óg were chasing glory on two fronts themselves this season. They got as far as the semi-final in senior hurling in Clare, pipped by a point by Inagh-Kilnamona, and then managed to reign in the football decider.

Eight players who featured in their football final win, also played some part in the hurling semi-final. Then Conal Ó hAinifein plays hurling for his native Ruan and foobtall with them.

The dual contingent would be swelled further in Éire Óg this year only for Shane O’Donnell and Liam Corry, recongisable hurling names, to be unavailable for the football, while Cathal Darcy, who hurls for Kilmaley, is out with a cruciate injury.

“I keep saying this to people, we would be an extremely proud dual club,” says Madden.

“We got beaten in the semi-final of the hurling and were extremely disappointed. We had four or five days to pick up the pieces and try to focus on a county football final.

“We would have a huge amount of dual players in the club and the backbone of our team would be dual players really.

“We totally understand what Loughmore have had to do and respect the fact that they’ve been out for 17 weeks on the bounce.

“We have never been that long running to be fair but we understand what it takes. Every year we go into the senior championship, whether it’s hurling or football, we have aspirations.

“You’ve got to have harmony between the sides. In Loughmore pretty much all of their management do both, for us it’s separate teams but we do everything together in terms of planning our training schedule and fitness work.

“They’re a fantastic club, first and foremost. My Dad’s a Tipp man, so I’d know a little bit about them. They’re fantastic double winners and it’s not a fluke when last year they lost both finals.

“Got to see them in the football final, we know we’re going to get an extremely determined, well-drilled, fit team. They will not stop going until the end. We have to match that.”

The Éire Óg teamsheet is littered with familiar faces from the Clare senior football and hurling squads.

“The split season has helped the club players,” says Madden.

“It makes for a long season for the county players but at least they’ve only one paymaster during a particular term. 

“And they love playing for their club, you can see that on county final day.”

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“You see David Reidy, predominantly a Clare hurler. David has played football for us for years, a fantastic footballer. Shane O’Donnell in his own right, has won maybe three U21 titles in football in Éire Óg. They are brilliant club men.”

One of the striking individual narratives in their side is their towering midfielder Darren O’Neill, who in June made his first championship start for the Banner in a decade.

“Darren played midfield for us in the 2014 final and he was only 21 at the time. A big, strong, rangy player but very young. Then his work brought him to Dublin and transferred, playing three or four seasons with Naomh Olaf. 

“Physically and mentally matured a lot up there. Came back at the start of last year, and was coming back from a cruciate. Put in a savage amount of work in the winter and got back in with the Clare squad and had a fantastic year with Clare, and likewise for us in club.”

If the Éire Óg players are newcomers to this stage, they do have an experienced figure in their ranks to guide them.

Seanie Buckley is their coach this year, the former Limerick footballer with a wealth of knowledge from his Munster club exploits with Drom-Broadford, the champions in 2008.

“Seanie is a fresh voice from outside, has a huge amount of inter-county and club experience. He knows what it takes to get over the line. He’s a fantastic, upcoming coach, so we’re delighted to have him. His background brought a huge amount of respect from the players. He’s very good around them, he’s a great understanding of Clare football. He was stationed here for four or five years, so he understands it very well.”

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