*Clare minor hurling selector, Fintan Leamy. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

FINTAN LEAMY is used to being a part of the biggest days in the GAA calendar but not as you might expect.

Tulla native Fintan who now resides in Clooney has an incredible love for all things Irish, hurling has been a lifelong love as has traditional music for the Clare minor hurling selector.

He has graced some of the GAA’s biggest days as a member of the storied Tulla Pipe Band but having an involvement with the county’s minor hurlers for Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Galway will top it all, Leamy admitted.

“This is huge, absolutely massive, one of the biggest days of them all. I’m old enough to remember 1997 and what a day that was with Clare doing the double. It’s taken an awful long time to get back to this stage, thirteen years since our last final appearance. I’ve had many great days with the Tulla Pipe Band, playing in Munster Finals with them but this will be the biggest day of them all. There’s something special about team sports. The bond and the friendships one makes for life. These are great guys and you couldn’t ask any more of them. They give you an overwhelming sense of pride,” he said.

Sunday in FBD Semple Stadium will be a day for the players, Fintan maintained. “It’s all about the players really. It’s a huge day in their lives, probably the biggest day so far and we as a management team are just there to guide them. I hope that they can go out and express themselves as best they can. If they do can do that their confidence will grow and I think if we express ourselves we will get over the line. I genuinely believe that’s the key, having faith in your own ability and expressing that on the day”.

En route to the final, Clare have taken big scalps including Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final plus overcoming Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary with two wins recorded over Cork including the Munster final.

Leamy believed Clare hurling was now “at an all-time high”. He stated, “If you said at the start of the year that you’d play Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary and have beaten them you’d know you were in for a special year. This will be our eighth game and to be honest when it comes to underage hurling they don’t come much bigger than Galway. But Clare hurling is at an all-time high. We are no longer chasing the pack. We are now setting the pace. We’ve been drilling it into the players that we are now the standard bearers.

“All the hard work with development squads is coming to fruition. We have some outstanding coaches. We didn’t take these guys on six months ago and suddenly turn them into Munster and hopefully All Ireland Champions. We are just following on from the great work done by others such as Rob Mulcahy and the strength and conditioning programs as well as Kieran McDermott, Peter Casey, Donal and lots of other great people. The seeds they’ve sown are starting to bloom thankfully”.

Clare must play their own game if they are to take down neighbours Galway in the final, the selector believed. “We’ve played Galway in a challenge, seen them in the All Ireland semi-final and they are a really good side. We will have to be at our best to beat them no doubt. We will also need sixty minutes of our best which we haven’t produced yet but we have been building towards it and if we play for the full sixty I’d be quietly confident we can win the day and bring glory to this great county”.

Players that experienced the devastation of losing the Munster final last year to Tipperary on a penalty shootout have set the tone in terms of leadership in 2023, Fintan noted. “Having the lads from last year who suffered that Munster Final heartbreak on penalties has been huge for us, they are our leaders and they have an incredible bond. You could see it all year when we needed it our key guys stood tall. These are great guys. These are the type of guys you’d go to war with. There’s a unity across the whole squad. It’s hard to beat a unified team, a team where everyone works for each other and that’s where we can enjoy success”.

Should Clare win their second ever All-Ireland minor title, Fintan may even have the bagpipes on standby for potential celebrations in Thurles. “It’s my second year at minor. To be involved with this group of players has been amazing. It would be incredible to win with these young guys. They truly are a really special bunch. We might even break out the bagpipes and play my lovely Rose of Clare at the final whistle. It would honestly be the day of days and God willing we can do 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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