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My club's greatest day...

Daithi Regan, Mick O’Keeffe and Darren Frehill recall when their club claimed All-Ireland senior glory.

Birr manager PJ Whelehan celebrates their 1998 final triumph.
Birr manager PJ Whelehan celebrates their 1998 final triumph.
Image: INPHO

Daithi Regan (Birr)

All Ireland club hurling champions 1995, 1998, 2002 and 2003

“1992 was our first experience of the All-Ireland series and the whole town went bananas. The semi-final win over Cushendall was a great occasion, a huge number of Birr people made the long trip up to support us.

“But we’d to wait for our final opponents as Kiltormer had three games in their All-Ireland semi-final series. They were more experienced and more battle-hardened. The better team won that year.

“When we finally did manage to win the All-Ireland in 1995, we were extremely lucky to do so. I was playing midfield and Dunloy really should have beaten us in the first game where it ended in a draw.

“The weather was terrible that day, massive storms and hoardings blowing onto the pitch. Dunloy were superbly fit and epitomised just how good Antrim club teams are at this level.

“The second day we got the job done and the celebrations around the town were fantastic. It was a unique and wonderful experience. It’s different to winning an All-Ireland with your county but it’s still a hugely memorable experience.

“Our club won further titles in 2002 and 2003 but I think the best ever All-Ireland club win for Birr was in 1998. Joe Errity was the captain of the team but his dad has died during the semi-final against Clarecastle. We won that game in extra-time after a replay.

“When we went out the day of the final, we knew we weren’t going to lose the game. When something hits home that you have to win for one of your teammates, it’s a huge motivation. I knew we’d win that match against Sarsfields and we did by seven points.”

Daithí Regan is a former All-Ireland winning hurler with Offaly and his club Birr. He is now an established hurling analyst for TV3, Newstalk and TheScore.ie

Birr Captain Joe Erritty, celebrates.
Pic: Keith Heneghan/INPHO

Mick O’Keeffe (Kilmacud Crokes)

All Ireland club football champions 1995 and 2009

“My timing was a bit off when it came to Kilmacud Crokes two All-Ireland wins. I joined the club senior panel two months after they won their first title in 1995 when I was 19. And then when I was coming towards the end of my career, I had actually transferred to Raheny, where I was living a year before the second win in 2009.

“But to be there both days was hugely special. I went to the 1995 final with my brother when Kilmacud beat Bellaghy of Derry. The weather was terrible that day, I remember at one stage the Bellaghy keeper took a kickout on the 14 yard line and the wind blew the ball straight out over the sideline on the ’22.

“I stood on the Hill 16 and it was Baltic throughout. The game was one of the worst I ever saw, it was a day for grinding out a win. Kilmacud achieved that and I think the effects of that victory was the GAA community then really started to form in the area.

“The team that won in 2009 had learnt lessons prior to that success. They lost a club semi-final in 2006 to Salthill but three years later came back to beat Rhode – after a miraculous comeback with 14 men – in the Leinster final, then Corofin and Crossmaglen in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

“To defeat Crossmaglen given all they had achieved was a fantastic feeling for the club. I’d a tinge of regret not being involved in 2009 but there was a huge amount of satisfaction to see Johnny Magee and Ray Cosgrove, who I had started out with, winning All-Ireland medals.”

Mick O’Keeffe is the MD of Pembroke Communications, a former Dublin senior footballer and played League of Ireland soccer for both UCD and Shamrock Rovers.

Kilmacud Crokes’ Liam Og O’hEinneachain and Mark Davoren celebrate after their 2009 win.
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Darren Frehill (Kiltormer)

All Ireland club hurling champions 1992

“The semi-final trilogy with Cashel King Cormacs that year is what really stands out.  I think those three games took the All-Ireland club hurling competition to a whole new level. There were three great games and drew huge crowds. I was playing minor for the club and would have supported the senior team at all their games.

“I’ll always remember Conor Hayes from Kiltormer and Cormac Bonnar from Cashel going head to head. They were two inter-county stars who had All-Ireland medals with their counties but this meant everything to them. It was a clash of giants really.

“The third match was played in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, which was novel in itself as it was only a semi-final. Interest grew by the time that game was played with a lot of coverage in newspapers.

“The semi-final games overshadowed the final in a way. It was played in Thurles and we were up against a Birr team who had stars like the Whelehan brothers, Daithi Regan and the Pilkington’s. All the talk was about them but Kiltormer had the momentum and that helped them win.

“It was a great time for the whole community. We’d be in a big hurling area in East Galway, located in a triangle between Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Portumna. And my home is only ten miles from the Tipperary border and 7 miles from the Offaly border. So to beat Tipperary and Offaly clubs in the All-Ireland series was very special.”

Darren Frehill is a sports presenter and commentator on television and radio for RTÉ.

Kiltormer’s Conor Hayes.
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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