Brian O’Connell, Cllr Joe Cooney and Eoghan Gunning. Photograph: Eamon Ward
CLARE’S All-Ireland winning minor hurling and junior camogie panels and managements were honoured with a civic reception by Clare County Council on Monday.
Proposed by Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG), Mayor of the Ennis Municipal District, Cllr Pat Daly (FF), Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG) and Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND), the civic reception is the highest honour the Council can bestow on an individual or group.
Fintan Leamy, a selector with the minor hurlers and a member of the Tulla Pipe Band led both panels into the Chamber of Clare County Council, playing the bagpipes. The ceremony closed with PJ Murrihy giving a rendition of ‘My Lovely Rose of Clare’.
Fintan Leamy of the Tulla Pipe Band leads the All-Ireland winning Clare Junior camogie & Clare minor hurling panels into the Council Chamber where they have been honoured with a civic reception by Clare County Council. pic.twitter.com/mMStO8EI55
— The Clare Echo (@ClareEcho) December 4, 2023
Victorious managers Brian O’Connell and John Carmody took seats at the top table along with winning captains Eoghan Gunning and Sinead O’Keeffe, Clare GAA Chairman Kieran Keating, Clare GAA Head of Operations Deirdre Murphy a member of the All-Ireland winning junior side in 2008, camogie selector Ann Marie McGann and Chairman of Clare Camogie, Joe O’Donnell who appeared to be quite comfortable sitting in the seat of the Mayor of Clare.
Addressing the gathering, Cllr Cooney said he was “delighted to honour our outstanding Clare teams with a civic reception”. The O’Callaghans Mills man stated, “As a proud Clare GAA man who has devoted most of my life to promotion of our games, it was an honour to follow both teams and they brought great pride back to the Banner County to win the All-Ireland titles”.
Interest in women’s sport is growing, the Mayor noted. “For too long women’s sports in Ireland was the poor relation relative to men’s sport, this has changed thankfully in recent years which gives me great satisfaction, it is great to see women’s support enjoying the public support and funding it deserved”. He remarked of the Junior camogie success, “To win any All-Ireland takes dedication a talent but to win an All-Ireland from six points down takes heart and bravery, ye bridged a gap of 15 years when you won this Junior title and created history by doing so”.
Cooney a former Chairman of Clare GAA continued, “What a year it has been for our minor hurling panel, Munster champions in May and All-Ireland champions a month later, these titles were a long-time coming but it is worth the wait. To bounce back from losing the Munster final last year on penalties shows how resilient this panel is, your success is a mix of supreme skill levels, hard work throughout the year which culminated in the success you all deserve”. He stressed, “These awards are not given out very often by Clare County Council but they are fully merited”.
Opening his contribution, Cllr Daly said, “it is a great privilege here tonight to see such talent in front of us. You couldn’t buy it”. He singled out the performances of minor hurling captain, Eoghan Gunning, “he reminded me of John Doyle coming out the field fifty years ago and hitting everyone”. He predicted, “I’ve no doubt ye will go along and win All-Ireland senior medals”.
Mentioning the importance of the panel, Cllr Flynn described those honoured as “sporting heroes”. He said, “We’re passionate about our sport and All-Irelands don’t come easy”. The Shannon representative added, “underage doesn’t mean automatic success, it is a while since we won a senior, let’s hope we won’t be waiting too long more”.
Camogie manager, John Carmody hailed it as “a wonderful occasion” for both teams to be recognised. “We took inspiration from it,” he said of the minor’s win, “looking at the lads outside it is fair to say the future of Clare hurling is in safe hands”. The Kilmaley man praised the commitment of the county camogie panel as “second to none”. He flagged, “Last year we won a Munster championship but lost two games by a puck of a ball, we went through the league and championship unbeaten which was unprecedented, it is a privilege to be with them on the sideline”. Next year with Clare having county sides at senior and intermediate “will be a huge challenge,” he said.
Captain of the camogie side, Sinead O’Keeffe acknowledged it had been “a really special year” for them. The wing back added, “It is a volunteer sport at the end of the day, we all give our time for days like this and we don’t always get them. There’s talk tonight about bringing the future and seeing the younger lads and girls, it is about the future of the sport, that is what we want to drive on”. Minor hurling captain, Eoghan Gunning said it was “an honour” for them to get such recognition.
Brian O’Connell who became the second All-Ireland winning minor hurling manager with Clare paid tribute to the elected representatives for bestowing them with the reception. “The significance of this award means a lot to us,” the ex Clare captain said. “We mentioned it at our awards ceremony on Friday that there will be winning and losing but the people you meet along the way is always important,” the Shannon native added. He extended best wishes to his cousin, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) on his upcoming retirement from politics.
Looking at the slideshow with winning photographs in the background, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) commented, “I smile when I see the pictures, we’re in the middle of December, we’re cold but your expressions and total joy ye have, don’t lose that feeling”. The Ennis woman said it was “a wonderful year for sport” and stressed that one person doesn’t make a team but then singled out Caoimhe Cahill’s efforts as a dual-player and how close she came to winning two All-Ireland titles in the space of a week.
Presence of “such a young crowd” in the Council Chamber was welcomed by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF). “The bottom line here is your clubs and your families, these are the real people behind it, I remember being in Meelick for the U16C final last year where Feakle/Killanena were playing and it went to extra time, one of those players came from U16C and went all the way to win an All-Ireland medal, Ronan Keane and yesterday he won an U21A medal, it really shows you are there to dream whether it is from a small club or community”.
Criticism of RTÉ was voiced by Cllr Pat Burke (FG), he recalled that on the Monday morning following Clare’s minor win “Darren Frehill failed to mention” the success. “He golf and greyhound racing, he said congratulations to Cork but he failed to mention the Clare minor hurlers, I sent an email to RTÉ about it but I got no response, I sent a letter to the Editor of Irish Independent saying ‘shame on Darren Frehill for not mentioning the minor All-Ireland’,” he revealed. The contribution of Whitegate duo, Lauran Solan and Aideen Hickey to the camogie success was noted by their clubman.
Admitting she was not “a very stellar athlete” in her youth, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) said she marvelled at the “brilliance and skill” of the county players. “Camogie being the poor relation is no longer the case,” the Quin native maintained. She singled Karen McMahon’s involvement in both the county junior camogie success and also Doora/Barefield’s run to the All-Ireland junior camogie semi-final.
For the first time, GAA enthusiast Buff Egan was mentioned within the confines of the Council Chamber. Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) quipped, “As Buff Egan says we’re going to the moon and we’ve gone to the moon with these panel of players”. He said he forms for the county players to register their vote prior to next June’s local elections so that they could fulfil their civic duty.
Panellists from both squads are “role models,” Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) observed. The input of all parents and managements to the success was referenced by the Kildysart Rd resident, “keep going, there is massive talent and we will be there again to watch ye get the winning scores”.
Bright hopes for the future are evident, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) said while predicting further success. “It is great to see Clare GAA on such a high,” added Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) who praised the contributions of the officers behind the scenes doing “a thankless job”. “It has been a fantastic year for Clare, what ye have done for our county and yourselves and parishes, it is absolutely fantastic to see two wonderful teams here this evening and the future for Clare when we see a fantastic group of young people,” stated Cllr John Crowe (FG).
Players involved are “an inspiration to us all,” admitted Cllr Paul Murphy (FG). Praise was also voiced by Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) and Cllr Michael Begley (FG). Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) noted that honouring two All-Ireland teams from the county on the one night was a rare occurrence, “I thought I’d never envisage such a positive occasion”.
Words of Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) struck a chord with the players and managements from both panels. He described himself as the only councillor present “from the football part of the county, there’s no votes in it for me so I can praise ye without looking for anything in return. I was fortunate to wear the Clare jersey on many occasion, those memories stay with you, put them in a special place and you will always have them”. He continued, “We’re speaking of people who have gone to far flung places of the world, the benefits of having people in the GAA is something to keep in mind, no matter where you go in the world there won’t be a GAA club too far away”. He urged those present to get behind Clare GAA’s fundraising efforts and concluded, “Sport unites us all”.
Chairman of Clare GAA, Kieran Keating prasied the Council for the occasion. He encouraged councillors to use their “political influence” to help their efforts to source a regional grant of €500,000 to try install an Astro-turf in Caherlohan.
Cooperation from the Council in improving the surface of the car park at Fr MacNamara Park was referenced by Clare Camogie Chairman, Joe O’Donnell. “To award a civic reception is a phenomenal honour for everybody here this evening. I share the dream of the players to win competitions and All-Irelands especially but I never thought we would get a civic reception,” he admitted.
🌹PJ Murrihy closes out a civic reception hosted by Clare County Council to honour the 2023 All-Ireland and Munster winning Clare minor hurlers and Clare Junior camogie panels and their managements.
— The Clare Echo (@ClareEcho) December 4, 2023