Clare Echo contributor Lauren Guilfoyle looks back on the careers of three great Clare stalwarts, Colin Ryan, Brendan Bugler and Patrick Donnellan following the trio’s respective retirements from inter-county hurling in recent weeks.
At 11am every day, outside Buckingham Palace, the old guard stand down and hand over the responsibility of protecting their monarchy.
In October 2017 similar events unfolded, perhaps in a more informal fashion, through Twitter statements, in the kingdom that is the Banner county. Having pulled on the saffron and blue for over ten years, Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan and Colin Ryan have called it a day on their respective intercounty careers.
O’Callaghans Mills man Donnellan was the first of the trio to make his debut in the senior setup, playing a part in the 2006 Munster semi-final against a stronger Cork side. Bugler had to wait until the following season to have his first taste of senior intercounty action when he operated from wing back in a league fixture with Down, while Colin Ryan made a lasting impression on hurling fans everywhere scoring 12 points on his championship introduction vs Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds in the summer of ’09.
Having survived through the choppy and unsuccessful waters of competitive action for the following couple of years, the beginning of the Davy Fitzgerald era in 2012 kickstarted the leap of Clare hurling back to the very top of the table. Upon being handed the keys to the Banner hurlers, Davy installed Patrick as his leader of the pack and hopes were high heading into a championship campaign that ultimately saw Clare fall to the hands of Limerick at Semple Stadium in late Summer. While collective efforts once again bore no fruit, Bugler claimed his first of what would be two All Star awards acknowledging his dominance in the Banner half back line.
In a piece in the Irish Examiner, Diarmuid O’Flynn described September 28th 2013 as “a day gifted from the hurling gods”, and the roles played by these three warriors across those 140 minutes of battle with the Rebels was a gift indeed. Donnellan made his presence known to all 82,000 spectators as early as the fifth minute. Upon collecting the breaking ball at his own 45 from an Anthony Nash puck out, Paddy executed a striking solo run directly to the opposition’s 21 before offloading a perfectly timed handpass to the boy in waiting O’Donnell who then put his first of three past Nash.
The dreamlike scenes both on the pitch and underneath the stands are forever immortalised on YouTube, with Brendan’s off-field performance that day racking up over 100,000 views alone. Many a theory has been passed around as to how the accordion made its way into the Banner dressing room, but the Whitegate man subtly alluded to Anthony Daly’s “In Clare we love our traditional music, but we also love our hurling” speech over 15 years previous by adding to the soundtrack of the day with kitman Michael ‘Gazzy’ Collins complementing with some questionable dance moves most likely recreated in a famous Harcourt Street establishment later that evening.
While the intervening years have not reached the same historical heights as late September in 2013 – all three continued to ply their trade with equal efforts and hang up their jersey owing Clare GAA nothing. The Bugler fist pump will live on and be recreated after many a hard won free, kids from Killaloe to Kilmaley will aim to emulate that stunning Colin Ryan goal from the 2010 League Final that you can be sure John Fenton gave the seal of approval to, while Patrick Donnellan’s name will forever be beside the recording of Clare’s fourth ever Liam MacCarthy success.