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53 scores, a late winning goal and a club classic that binds the Galway and Waterford bosses

Mícheal Donoghue and Derek McGrath were on opposite sides for the 2011 All-Ireland club semi-final.

pjimage (2) Glory for Clarinbridge and despair for De La Salle in 2011. Source: INPHO

THE CONCLUSION WAS as stunning as everything that had gone before.

For over 80 minutes Galway’s Clarinbridge and Waterford’s De La Salle collided on 19 February 2011 to produce a spellbinding All-Ireland club semi-final.

De La Salle clung to a two-point advantage with the game rooted in injury-time of extra-time at Semple Stadium as Clarinbridge peppered their goalmouth.

Eventually the third delivery in succession that they rained down yielded a breakthrough, Eanna Murphy getting the crucial touch for the match-winning goal.

There was one final chance for De La Salle to rescue themselves but Clarinbridge held firm for a 3-22 to 1-27 victory in a game of jaw-dropping quality.

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

“It was just desperation from us in that last minute,” recalls Alan Kerins.

“I remember just getting the ball 20 yards out and no chance of scoring. I just tried to get some top spin on it and you’d never know what might happen.

“The ball spun off the full-back’s hurley and Eanna was able to bat it in. The whole place went bananas.

“That De La Salle match was probably the best game I was ever involved in, from the sheer quality of the match and the ending was a script you couldn’t write.

“I think back at the time it was quoted as one of the best club games ever. It was a cracker, the drama was unbelievable. The scores were flowing thick and fast all day.”

Shane Burke celebrates his sides late winning goal Source: James Crombie

In the catalogue of hurling encounters between Galway and Waterford teams, that match six years ago lingers in the memory.

The two managers for next Sunday’s All-Ireland senior final will recall it clearly. Mícheál Donoghue was at the helm for Clarinbridge. Derek McGrath was an unused substitute for De La Salle.

Micheal Donoghue Clarinbridge manager Micheál Donoghue. Source: James Crombie

Clashmore3 Derek McGrath front row - fourth from left. Source: INPHO

It would transpire to be a springboard for both men in their managerial careers.

Donoghue would go on to be appointed as Galway boss before Christmas 2015, that 2011 club winning campaign a shining feat on his CV that helped compel the county board out west to appoint him.

McGrath’s playing days were coming to a halt. He would reprise his success with the De La Salle schools sides by taking over the De La Salle club team, lifting the 2012 Waterford senior crown and only falling short of Munster glory at the final stage to Thurles Sarsfields that November.

Derek McGrath celebrates with his team Derek McGrath celebrating De La Salle's 2012 county senior final win. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

That 2011 semi-final loss was a gut-wrenching experience for De La Salle to absorb. They were pummelled by 19 points by in the St Patrick’s Day final in 2009.

They regrouped and two years later were on the brink of a shot at redemption in a decider in Croke Park when that reward was snatched away from them.

Partaking in a classic would provide scant consolation. The scoring tallies were eye-catching. John Mullane was in wonderful from as he fired 0-11 for De La Salle. The Kerins brothers shone for Clarinbridge, Mark’s 2-5 haul from placed balls and Alan’s 0-6 return from open play.

Mark Kerins scores a late goal Mark Kerins fires home a goal for Clarinbridge Source: James Crombie

“It was just a top quality game,” recalls Kerins.

“Mullane was very good, he was at the peak of his powers at that stage.

“My brother Mark was just out of hospital, he’d been in all week with a virus. He wasn’t at his best but still got 2-5.

“He got the 21 yard free to help us get to extra time, I don’t know how the ball went in, there was 10 of them on the line. That levelled it up, I got a point straight after the goal to put us one ahead and then deep in injury time they levelled it, Brian Phelan hit a free.

“It was all drama, it ebbed and flowed. You were exhausted after it.”

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

Clarinbridge gratefully seized the opportunity presented to them.

They dismantled O’Loughlin Gaels in the final and had 12 points to spare. In 2002 they had been convincingly defeated in their previous final appearance by Birr.

Mícheál Donoghue was the captain of that Clarinbridge team, Kerins a key forward. They had watched Sarsfields and Athenry establish club dynasties before then and saw Portumna come along thereafter.

Between 1992 and 2010 that trio of Galway giants hoovered up 16 county crowns, eight All-Ireland titles and contested another three All-Ireland finals.

The 2011 club success was a personal triumph for Kerins. He had lost All-Ireland senior deciders with Galway in 2001 and 2005, along with the 2002 reversal with Clarinbridge.

“I remember looking at the clock and we were well up, 10 or 11 points with a few minutes to go, and I remember smiling.

“It was lovely to savour the last few minutes in Croke Park, knowing it was more or less in the bag and to enjoy that experience with your club men.

“It was probably the best moment I’ve had in sport. It was special.”

Alan Kerins celebrates with manager Michael Donoghue Alan Kerins celebrates with Micheál Donoghue after the 2011 All-Ireland club final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kerins made his breakthrough but he appreciates his good fortune when considering the defeated De La Salle team from 2011.

John Mullane and Brian Phelan hung up their boots with Waterford without that coveted medal. Captain Kevin Moran, Jake Dillon and Stephen Daniels provide links from that De La Salle team to next Sunday’s Waterford squad.

“They were heartbroken that day. I’m obviously hoping Galway win but you couldn’t begrudge Waterford an All-Ireland either.

“Kevin was excellent in that De La Salle match, just a serious athlete. Guys like him and Brick Walsh are around a long time.”

John Mullane dejected after the game A dejected John Mullane after that 2011 All-Ireland club semi-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He’s not surprised to see his club mate closing in on the peak of hurling management. Kerins thinks back to how Donoghue overhauled Clarinbridge’s fortunes, demanding they strive for bigger and better things.

He always radiated ambition, frequently tapping into the knowledge of other sporting figures in the Galway region like Eric Elwood and Eamonn O’Shea.

“The one thing Mícheal always instilled in us was composure. Don’t lose your heads. Keep to the game plan. Do the right things.

“He demanded we set our own standards and never accept mediocrity. Mícheál was always ambitious. He changed our culture around.

“He built a great backroom team around him then, like he has now in Galway. He’s a very shrewd operator, very calm on the line, very much player and individual based.

“Treats the players very fairly. He’s ruthless as well when he was to be but everyone sees the value of where they belong. He has Galway hurling at heart.”

The Kerins brothers started in the 2001 final, Alan flying the club flag in his own in 2005.

Alan Kerins and Diarmuid O'Sullivan 11/9/2005 Alan Kerins in action against Diarmuid O'Sullivan in the 2005 All-Ireland senior hurling final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Two years ago on All-Ireland final day, four Clarinbridge players saw action in Galway’s minor triumph. There another four involved in this Sunday’s minor final with Donoghue’s manager role sparking further anticipation.

“We’ve no player for the first time in a while in the senior but with Mícheál as manager there is massive excitement in Clarinbridge,” says Kerins.

“It’s a huge honour for the club. It’s been so long since we’ve had Liam MacCarthy in Galway, it’d be huge.

“We’re all rooting for him. It’ll be hard to enjoy the day but if we get the cup home we’ll be laughing!”

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Fintan O'Toole

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