*Niall Hogan (second from left) forms part of the Clonlara management. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

NIALL HOGAN was a Clonlara selector when they claimed their second senior championship in 2008, fifteen years on he’s in the role fresh from winning their third senior title and bidding to win a first provincial crown.

Hogan is full of pride when he reflects on their journey to date in 2023 but espouses the height of respect for Ballygunner, their opponents in Sunday’s Munster final.

Speaking to The Clare Echo following Clonlara training on Sunday morning, Niall outlined, “It’s funny really because we are just gone twelve months on the road now and it almost felt like it was the start of the year out there this morning. It was like you were doing your first real session in March or something. It’s a bit surreal to be honest about it. It’s an unbelievable feeling, an unbelievable buzz to be in a Munster Club Final. It’s what you literally dream of. We are unbeaten in championship and winning is a great feeling and it gives you confidence and everything is positive around the place”.

Facing into the juggernaut that is the ten in a row Waterford champions is a daunting proposition but Niall says they’re preparing to beat Ballygunner not to contain them. “We use reference points as a management team all the time. Whether it’s a goalkeeper with exceptional puckouts, whether it’s an incredible back line or a very strong forward division like Éire Óg or really sharp ball players like Kiladangan we’ve adapted to every situation we’ve met so far. That’s the key to winning, it’s the ability to adapt and we are extremely resilient. For me resilience is finding a solution to a problem and that’s our job. Yes we are facing our toughest job yet but we’re confident that we have prepared well.

Diarmuid Stritch. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

“We’re under no illusions as to what we’re facing. The semi-final was daunting as we didn’t know what to expect but with Ballygunner we’ve seen them over and over. They’ve been playing Munster club constantly so we are well versed as to what they’re about. We are preparing to beat them not contain them. That’s the way we look at it. We go back to 08 and that’s another reference point for us. Obviously the players apart from John are completely different. I mean Diarmuid Stritch was only three but we got the sense of occasion back then but we weren’t prepared. We are prepared this time. We had the occasion last weekend whereas this week is about getting our game right. We have to be ready for the way they set up, the way they crowd out the middle third, the way they will often concede the restart. It’s our job to get the team ready and as I said we are preparing to beat them not contain them. We will go in as underdogs but that gives you a free shot. The pressure is on them. They’re probably down in Waterford saying who are Clonlara. Yeah they’ll know John Conlon and Ian Galvin but outside if that they probably won’t know the rest of our players. Hopefully after Sunday they’ll know who we are”.

Niall continued, “We’re going out to deliver a performance for our community and if we deliver that we’ll be there in the closing minutes. We have to perform just like our camogie team did. They played Sarsfields here and lost but left that field to huge applause because they had given everything, they just came up short. We have to give everything now and if we do this magnificent journey may have a few more days out”.

Imaging a Clonlara win in a Munster senior final is something Niall and all involved could only have dreamed about but now they are sixty minutes from making it a reality. “It’ll be indescribable. The night of the county final was a release of emotion. Again using reference points somebody commented that it was the first time since Covid that the village were all as one. We had bonfires and huge celebrations. There’s a super feeling around the place. It’s so enjoyable. Everybody has a smile on their face and the talk is just about the hurling. What other way would you want it”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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