*Photograph: Chris Copley
Clarecastle captured the last of their eleven county senior hurling titles back in 2005 and fifteen years is too long to be waiting for the Canon Hamilton trophy to return to the village.
That’s according to this year’s team manager Roger McMahon, a man who has played at every level for the club and who has also served in a variety of positions on the club executive over the years. Roger returned to the role of team manager for 2020 and also fills the role of under 21 A manager, a title that many have predicted will be won by the magpies.
Management: Roger McMahon (manager), Fergie O’Loughlin (coach), John Casey, Brian Russell, Alan O’Loughlin.
Captain: Bobby Duggan
Most recent: 2005
Key player: Bobby Duggan
Fresh blood: Cian Galvin
Fun fact: 14 members of the Clarecastle squad are under the age of 21.
“For the last few years we have been fighting relegation. We have a very young squad, fourteen of whom are under 21. We are going into the unknown. There have been no Clare cup games, we have had no competitive games at all so it’s been very difficult to blood young fellas”, commented Roger.
He agreed that Clarecastle and Wolfe Tones have had “some good contests at under age level over the past decade” but he noted that the Shannon side “can call on inter county men in Aaron Cunningham, Aron Shanagher and Rory Hayes” for this campaign, “that’s a lot of experience”, he added but while Clarecastle’s panel is relatively young, in team captain Bobby Duggan, Stephen O’Halloran and Jonathan Clancy they have players who have also worn the saffron and blue of Clare.
Darragh Healy and Cian Galvin excelled for St. Flannans at the end of last year when the famed Ennis nursery won the Dr. Harty CCup and went on to account for St. Kierans from Kilkenny in the All-Ireland (Croke cup) quarter final before all competitions were suspended. They are likely to see some game time in the upcoming campaign.
“Whatever the outcome of games in the first round, clubs will have to win their second round game to stay in contention for championship honours. Win or lose the opening round, clubs will still be in the championship but all will want to win their opening round tie”, he added
In the opening round in 2019 the Magpies suffered an eighteen point loss to the eventual winners Sixmilebridge. In the losers section they lost out by sixteen points to Clooney-Quin which left them battling relegation. Here they had seven points to spare over Tulla who ended up losing their senior status.
The manager has assembled an experienced backroom team. Fergie O’Loughlin who has been in charge of many Clarecastle teams in the past decade is training the side. He has also coached senior teams in Ballyea and Clooney-Quin while he has been in charge of a number of clubs in Galway, Tipperary and Limerick.
John Casey has managed the club’s minor and under 21 teams in recent years while Alan O’Loughlin and Brian Russell complete the backroom team and they look after the club’s intermediate team which will begin their championship campaign when they face Parteen on Sunday.
Clarecastle may not be on many punters short list for honours at senior level this year but they will carry the favourites tag into this opening round tie at O’Garney Park on Saturday.