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The town of Sixmilebridge forgot the Republic of Ireland were playing last night

Niall Gilligan and Sixmilebridge were toasting Clare senior hurling championship success.

Niall Gilligan was man of the match in Sunday's Clare decider.
Niall Gilligan was man of the match in Sunday's Clare decider.
Image: Gareth Williams/INPHO

BLEARY-EYED BUT happy, Niall Gilligan awoke this morning as a Clare senior hurling championship medallist – again.

Last night, the town of Sixmilebridge toasted the club’s 12th county title and Gilligan was the star of the show, banging over 0-13 in the victory over Clonlara.

12 of those scores came from placed balls and when the pressure was at its height, Clare’s former All-Ireland SHC medallist Gilligan stayed calm to deliver the goods once more.

“I wouldn’t be keeping track myself,” Gilligan smiled this morning, in conversation with The42.

“We had a meeting on Saturday night and I said to the lads, live for today, and in the present.

“The younger lads will probably play in more county finals and maybe All-Ireland finals but Sunday was the biggest hurling day of all our lives.

Niall Gilligan Niall Gilligan was brilliant on placed balls for Sixmilebridge on Sunday. Source: Gareth Williams/INPHO

“I’m absolutely thrilled for the family and everyone, the schools and people in the ‘Bridge.”

For Gilligan, who’s seen and done it all, he rates this latest success as right up there with anything he has ever achieved in the game.

When you’re 39 years of age, you treasure days like these.

“You’d be thinking when you finish intercounty, that’s it,” he said.

“But we came back to the ‘Bridge last night, an open top bus on the square and maybe 1000 or 1500 people there, while Ireland were playing a soccer match.”

They had a good night, for sure, and today will probably be even better.

“We had,” Gilligan smiles. “The same craic again today! We’re very good at celebrating these kind of things as well!”

And so they should, as the ‘Bridge emerged from the shark-infested waters of the Clare senior hurling championship to finish on top of the pile again.

Now their focus turns to the AIB Munster club championship, and a clash with Limerick kingpins Na Piarsaigh.

A dejected Niall Gilligan Niall Gilligan was crushed by Munster club final defeat two years ago. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The clubs met two years ago in the provincial final and Na Piarsaigh dished out a merciless 4-14 to 0-8 hammering to a battle-weary ‘Bridge outfit. 

“It’s hard enough to get out of Clare,” says Gilligan.

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“And I know Na Piarsaigh will have goals of reaching an All-Ireland club final.

“They’ll look at themselves as hot favourites but look, we’ll be doing our best.

“18 points in it two years ago, we’ll be doing our best to atone for that.”

But for now, they’ll celebrate a second Clare success in three seasons.

From the outside looking in, and given the calibre of teams operating in the Banner County, this latest ‘Bridge win may have come as something of a surprise – but not to Gilligan and his teammates.

Niall Gilligan and Conal Bonnar Niall Gilligan in action for Clare during the 1997 All-Ireland final victory over Tipperary. Source: INPHO

“No, we’d always think we’re in the top three or four teams in Clare, on any given year.

“If you get things right, you have a fair chance. The ‘Bridge, Clonlara, Crusheen, Newmarket, Cratloe, any of those teams on a a given year can win the championship in Clare.”

Gilligan was one of the big reasons why the ‘Bridge managed to get the job done.

Over the last three weeks, every evening, he worked on his freetaking on the local field, from various distances and angles.

Padraig Harrington Niall Gilligan has been tapping into Padraig Harrington's psychology. Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

Standing over a placed ball in a much more pressurised environment is a different kettle of fish but Gilligan was prepared.

“You have to clear your head and set yourself up every time you stand over one, have the balance right.

“It’s kind of like a golf shot, block everything out and concentrate on your shot, not let everything in.

“You have people trying to put you off but it’s a case of watching the black spot or picking a dot behind the goal, concentrate and hit that.

“I’ve often heard Padraig Harrington talking about how if a negative thought comes into his head, he replaces it with a positive.

“Even reading Ronan O’Gara’s book, it’s about clearing your head, taking your time.”

Seems to be working just fine for Gilly.

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