*Micheál O’Loughlin. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

THERE’S SOMETHING special about county finals and it was epitomised by Micheál O’Loughlin, Clonlara’s man of the match who hit 2-9 to send them on their way to a third senior title.

In advance of the final, Micheál described himself as a veteran of the side at the age of 27. He had tasted defeat in previous county finals, losing to Sixmilebridge in 2015 and Ballyea in 2016 so he made sure to absorb the magnitude of their achievement and it’s why he was emotional when the final whistle sounded in Cusack Park.

That winning feeling is one of the priceless experiences, he noted. “You can’t buy it, you literally cannot, all the money in the world you cannot buy this feeling here and doing it with the lads you are literally in love with, you’d give everything for them and die for them, it’s incredible”.

Micheál told The Clare Echo, “It is surreal, we’re looking on over the last few years and watching teams breaking through wondering will we ever get it and what does it take, after losing in 2015 and 2016 I don’t know did I think our chance was gone, the buy-in off lads this year was absolutely incredible, the maturity of lads. Winning those three Senior Bs were a taster of tough games and from the Minor A team of 2018, they are the fruits of this team”.

Giving his view on what it now takes to get over the line, O’Loughlin stated, “There was definitely something in our team this year, I don’t know how to describe it, it’s been really special, the buy-in and the friendship that was built up, a different kind of buy-in, we had a psychologist with us Nollaig (O’Sullivan) and she was absolutely unbelievable in the stuff she did, you hear so much about Caroline Currid with Limerick and everything, looking on you’re maybe a bit sceptical but when you get a team that it starts working for and lads fully buy into it then it is unbelievable and I think it was a huge factor in our whole progression this year, our self-regulation is her real buzzword”.

Team-work helped Micheál to score his first goal, his younger brother Páraic won possession in the half-back line Aidan Moriarty fed the ball to Ian Galvin who expertly offloaded and no mistake was made with the finish.

Goal number two was a bit more complicated, he caught the sliotar over the head of Éanna McMahon from a long-delivery by Colm Galvin, he tore down on goal only to be hooked by Luke Hayes but as the ball fell to the ground he somehow managed to get it past Donal Tuohy.

Recalling the second green flag, Micheál admitted, “I don’t even know what happened, I honestly do not have a notion as to what happened, it came in, I caught it and I turned, I was through and then I was hooked so I thought it was gone when it fell but somehow I managed to kick it over the line”.

A strong collective effort was always evident in Clonlara’s championship displays. Though Micheál’s scores were crucial, he was also pleased to see his brother Páraic having a fine game at wing back. “He caught some great big balls near the end and plucked them out of the sky. I think I probably roared at him at one stage when he went for a shot but I wasn’t in a position to be roaring at anyone with all misses I had in the first half. We’re delighted, our mantra this year from Donal Madden was that we had forty people involved, if everyone gives their two percent rather than anyone trying to carry the load, it will get us over the line”.

On Saturday, another O’Loughlin led the way with their sister Áine scoring 2-6 as Truagh/Clonlara qualified for the county final. As he left Fr McNamara Park, Micheál happened to meet this writer and he admitted that the exchange was in his head prior to taking to the field in Cusack Park. “They were playing their camogie semi-final on Saturday, she had a good game and got a few scores, I met yourself Páraic going out the gate and you did say if another O’Loughlin managed to get a score like that it could be a good weekend, maybe it was written in the stars.

“Scores are great but at the end of the day nobody gives a damn, you just look at what it means to everyone, players, community, family, people who came back from abroad, Paul McNamara came back from Australia, we had Kieran Galvin come back from America, what it means to everyone is incredible”.

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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.

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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