*Aonghus O’Brien. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
CLARE MEN WILL be part of the Limerick management plotting their native county’s downfall for this year’s Munster final.
Limerick have been the recent kingpins of hurling history, claiming three All-Ireland SHC titles in the space of four years while this weekend they aspire to collect their fourth provincial title in a row.
Their physicality and exceptional skill with players of the calibre of Cian Lynch, Sean Finn, Diarmaid Byrnes, Gearoid Hegarty, the Morrissey brothers, Kyle Hayes, Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan to name but a few.
Central to their success has also been the strong management team put in place by John Kiely and it is heavily comprised of Clare men.
Shannons’s Alan Cunningham has been involved with the Limerick senior hurlers since Kiely was appointed manager for the 2017 season. Principal of St Caimin’s Community School in Shannon, Alan was previously coach of the Na Piarsaigh side that won the Caherdavin outfit’s first and only All-Ireland club title in 2016.
Cunningham was previously selector and coach to both Anthony Daly and Mike McNamara during their respective tenures in charge of Clare, while he served as coach to the Offaly senior hurlers in 2012 and 2013 under two-time All-Ireland winner Ollie Baker. He first lined out for the Clare minor hurlers in 1981 and made his last appearance for the county seniors in 1989. Alan’s sons Aaron and Jack also represented the county with Aaron winning an All-Ireland SHC and National League in 2013 and 2016 along with three All-Ireland U21 and Munster titles from 2012 to 2014.
Aonghus O’Brien of Broadford is also part of the coaching ticket. He coached the Limerick minors in 2013 when they were crowned provincial champions and exited the All-Ireland semi-finals in controversial circumstances, losing to Galway after extra time, Hawk-Eye had showed an early Barry Nash effort had gone over the crossbar for Limerick, but the graphic indicated that it was a miss. Referee Fergal Horgan didn’t allow the score, with the GAA confirming later that the system would be stood down for the remainder of the afternoon. Cian Lynch, Sean Finn, Seamus Flanagan, Darragh O’Donovan, Mike Casey, Barry Nash, Tom Morrissey, Pat Ryan were among the current panellists to feature on that day.
Currently the principal of Broadford and Kilbane National School, Aonghus was part of the Clare management for Davy Fitzgerald’s final season in 2016 which saw National League success achieved. O’Brien made his championship debut for the Clare minors in 1999 scoring 0-01 from midfield, they went on to contest the provincial final that year losing to Tipperary 1-13 2-07. He also lined out at U21 and intermediate level for his county and made an appearance for the seniors during the Allianz National Hurling League.
Highly regarded as one of the top hurling coaches of this era is Paul Kinnerk. A native of the Treaty County, Paul was coach to the Clare senior hurlers that tasted All-Ireland glory in 2013, he was also to the fore for the sides that won three Munster and All-Ireland U21 titles from 2012 to 2014. He was absent from the Banner senior management in 2015 before returning in 2016 to assist in their National League glory.
A former Limerick footballer, Kinnerk’s mother hails from Kilkee and his father from Doonbeg, in recent years they have lived in Cratloe and the former St Caimin’s secondary school teacher has been the chief architect of Limerick’s dominance in recent seasons.