*Sixmilebridge’s Niall Gilligan. Photograph: Willie O’Reilly (Burren Eye Photography)
Sixmilebridge’s Niall Gilligan has announced his retirement from hurling, bringing the curtain down on a glittering and memorable career.
Following their exit from the Munster club championship, all involved with the Bridge seniors ventured straight to the sanctuary of their dressing room. As the reality of their twelve point defeat was beginning to sink in, Gilligan addressed all present in the room and announced he was calling time on his career with the club’s senior side that spanned two and a half decades.
Corner forward on the Ger Loughnane managed Clare team which were crowned All-Ireland champions in 1997, Niall two years later won his first and only All Star award.
At club level, he has been one of the outstanding figures in the game. He had to endure an eleven year wait between winning his third and fourth Clare SHC medal. As they dethroned neighbours and rivals Newmarket-on-Fergus in 2013, Gilligan played a crucial role scoring 1-06. When they were crowned kings of Clare two years later, he was given the man of the match accolade after they dispatched of Clonlara.
Although on the field for forty eight minutes, he scored two points as The Bridge beat Clooney/Quin in the 2017 final replay. This year, the forty three year old’s role with the seniors was more limited, making his first championship bow in the semi-final win over Inagh/Kilnamona before being introduced in additional time as they beat neighbours Cratloe.
Paying tribute to the retiring Gilly, Bridge boss Tim Crowe reflected, “It’s the end of an era for Bridge hurling, I presume he’ll get involved in coaching and administration down the line”.
“We in The Bridge and Clare realise he is an outstanding servant, to play twenty five years of club senior championship is outstanding in this modern era with the pressures that are on people”.