'There's a big novelty factor' - Clare and Tipp coaches face off after combining in club win

The Kiladangan club have links to both setups for Sunday’s Munster semi-final.

Darragh Egan and Seán Treacy.
Darragh Egan and Seán Treacy.
Image: INPHO

BEFORE THE MAIN hurling event of the day, Seán Treacy had to tend to some warm-up business.

If the primary focus was on Semple Stadium last Sunday afternoon, as the curiosity for the Clare coach lay in how they would fare in their opening summer assignment, he had a pitstop to make that morning a few miles out the road at The Ragg.

Clare operate at the marquee level but the fortunes of Kiladangan continue to consume the Galway native. Last September they reached the summit of Tipperary hurling in that remarkable, breathless county final that was only settled in the dying seconds of extra-time.

It’s a project he still keeps an eye on in 2021.

“It’s a measure of the man that he was there for our league match at 11am last Sunday,” says Kiladangan manager Brian Lawlor.

“And we’d a fantastic win against Drom actually, despite missing so many guys. He was there for the full match and then tipped down to Thurles.

“It was a super Sunday for Seán Treacy.”

The absent players Lawlor refers to are that core who currently sit in Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary dressing-room. The 2021 tally now stands at six – Alan and Paul Flynn, Barry Hogan, Willie Connors, James Quigley and Billy Seymour. Throw in Sean Hayes hurling with the Tipperary U20 team and there’s a keen inter-county interest in their locality.

But there was one Tipperary senior figure in action for Kiladangan last Sunday. Darragh Egan is part of Sheedy’s coaching brains trust yet he hasn’t neglected his goalkeeping, manning the areas between the posts in that league victory.

It tees Sunday’s Munster semi-final up nicely. Clare have little respite after beating Waterford, their reward is a meeting with Tipperary.

That sees Treacy and Egan in sideline opposition, with the Clare coach having a strong insight into the capabilities of members of the Tipperary squad.

The double-jobbing is striking. The all-consuming nature of the inter-county game would tend to indicate club matters would have to be parked.

But as immersed as Treacy now is in Clare hurling, he has remained committed to his role in Tipperary.

paul-flynn-celebrates-with-the-trophy-and-his-team Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We were after losing the county final to Borris-Ileigh (in 2019) and Seán contacted me in the off-season to say that an approach had come from Clare,” recalls Lawlor.

“He really wanted to take it and he assured me that there’d be no issue, he’d still be there for Kiladangan. He was willing to do both jobs.

“He told me from the start that Wednesday nights are good for him, so he’s in Puckane every Wednesday night for training and because he hasn’t been there all week, he really pushes them hard, which is fantastic.”

Egan’s input is also valued. Kiladangan’s number one netminder is Barry Hogan, who is in the mix for the same spot for Tipperary, yet his club understudy is important.

“We usually train when Tipp don’t train, so Darragh trains with us most of the time and even though the six guys are not training, they’re actually down in the field those nights watching on, which is great.

“We’re just lucky to have two very good goalkeepers in the club. They push each other on very well.

“We’ve two senior teams. Last year Barry was number one but if anything was to happen to Barry, Darragh just slots in, he knows the players so well, he knows the puckouts.

“Officially he’s not part of the management team but last year we deployed him with the hurleys for some of the matches and he’s very vocal. The lads have great respect for him. He’s the type of guy you do want shouting in during a match because you know his message is always on point.”

Juggling twin hurling responsibilities may seem complex but there has been an offshoot of the new structure that the pandemic forced the GAA to stumble upon.

“In the old system having six inter-county players would have really hurt a club team,” argues Lawlor.

“But with the new split season, it’s not as bad at all. It’s much more manageable, the same with coaching.

“It’s not like the old days when teams didn’t know when they were going to be playing. It’s very ad-hoc. Clare is a very organised setup because Seán knew months in advance what nights he was with Clare. It just took a bit of planning but we’ve had Seán every single Wednesday night.

“I think this will happen across the country. You’ll see good coaches that are in demand, being with a inter-county team and then coming back to take a club team for their part of the season as well.

“In the old days, coaches tried both and what ended up happening was pure animosity because there were never able to be in two places at once.”

Having been at the helm of the Kildare hurlers, Lawlor returned to his home club before the 2019 campaign kicked into gear. His coaching hunt began with an approach to the man who is a native of Portumna, resident of Borrisokand and enjoyed a Galway playing career that yielded All-Star awards in 1989 and 1991 after his defensive postings.

“Seán moved on after two years with us under Dan Hackett but he had huge respect from the lads. When I came in then in ’19, I needed a hurling coach and the first man I called was Seán.

“He would have been involved with loads of teams, Nenagh, ourselves, a bit with Portumna. His name was out there as a no-nonsense coach and somebody that always left a good legacy wherever he was.

“He was happy to come back in. It’s his second coming with Kiladangan and this is our third year together as manager and coach. Everyone’s enjoying it and it seems to be a good fit.”

Egan’s presence in helping direct Tipperary senior operations is no surprise either to Lawlor. He was recruited when Sheedy began his second spell in the hotseat, an immediate return to glory ensuing in 2019.

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darragh-egan-liam-sheedy-eamon-oshea-and-tommy-dunne Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I played with Darragh for years with the club. I’m 42 now, Darragh’s 35. We’d have played alongside each other intermediate and up into senior then.

“In his early 20s, he was involved in numerous underage teams in the club and at the same time, he took over as juvenile chairman and put in an awful lot of structures.

“The philosophy of getting senior players coaching underage. Twinning with teams in Antrim and up the country for home and away trips. He’s principal in the local school and has started off some great initiatives.

“We’ve a scholarship scheme where a couple of our guys that are in college, are funded by the club and the local schools, to coach all of the PE classes in the primary schools in GAA on Thursday and Friday.”

If Tipperary have the higher standing and bigger reputation from the last few years, they are entering this game cold.

In contrast Clare are surfing a wave of momentum, generated by last week’s win and a performance that smacked of their coach’s values.

“Looking at Clare the last day against Waterford, as far as I’m concerned Seán Treacy’s stamp was all over that team. I’ve never seen Clare tackle as hard and be as disciplined and put in such an effort. That’s just the hallmark of Seán and that’s what he brings to Kiladangan.

“He will not take less than 100% effort and determination, he’s very strong on tackling and work off the ball. I could see that all over Clare’s display last week.

“I was delighted because there’s a lot of stuff going on in the background and at boardroom level in Clare at the moment that’s getting bad headlines, so it was great to see Clare getting good headlines for a performance on the pitch.”

That level of goodwill won’t be replicated on Sunday.

“There’s been great banter in training. There’s a big novelty factor, the way it’s come to a head this weekend now

“Hopefully a few Kiladangan lads will start on Sunday and maybe a few more come on.

“And hopefully Tipp win and Seán goes on to better things with Clare for the rest for the year.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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