*Conner Hegarty & Cian Galvin raise aloft the Dr. Harty Cup. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Clarecastle has been synonymous with the success of St Flannan’s College since first winning the prestigious competition in 1944 right through until the weekend just gone.

When St Flannan’s is at its strongest in the hurling sphere, the link between it and the Magpies is vibrant. As they claimed title number twenty two, the spine of their defence comprised of Cian Broderick, Darragh Healy and joint captain Cian Galvin, all from the Clarecastle club while James Doherty was introduced to the fray in the final quarter.

Conor Halpin and Sam Browne bring the contingent on the panel to five. Only their neighbours Ballyea had more on the panel with a total of six but it was Clarecastle that had the most amount of players on the starting team.

Their contributions have been rightly applauded but the reception for them on the panel was not always as warm as three time Harty Cup winner and former Clare GAA Chairman, John Hanly recalled in ‘Blue is the Colour’. “The Clarecastle dayboys were not well received, often ridiculed. We were not very studious, preferring the easygoing life of the village. In those days also, dayboy hurlers were a threat to the boarders and were resented. There were eight dayboys on the 1944/45 Harty Team and this deprived the boarders of the advantages of being on this team,” the member of the school’s first Harty Cup winning team stated.

As the decades rolled on, the Magpie involvement remained strong with Barney Lynch adding to their collection in 1976 as the school ended an eighteen year drought. Peter Leyden captained Flannan’s to glory in 1982, a year later Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin and Andrew Hanly were victorious while Alan Neville, Pat Healy (father of Darragh), Anthony Daly and Fergie Tuohy tasted success in 1987.

From the class of 1990, there was James Healy, Stephen Sheedy and Bernard Scanlan.  Conor Plunkett, John Casey, Gary Farmer and Declan Walsh were part of the All-Ireland winning sides from later that decade. As the new millennium dawned, Derek Quinn and Alan O’Loughlin kept the fire burning. Andrew Griffey and Jonathan Clancy were part of the successful 2004 team.

Indeed it was a Clarecastle family that became the first father and son to win All-Ireland Colleges titles as the Hanlys John Snr and John Jnr broke the mould and Andrew got in on the act in 1983.

Back to the present day and the association remains as strong with Cian Galvin joint captain of the 2020 side. Speaking to The Clare Echo in the aftermath of their success, he admitted, “It’s hasn’t really sunk in at all yet, I’m sure the next few days in school will be something special for the lads and all the teachers in school, they’ve been rooting for us all year so it’s great for them”.

Singled out as one of the team’s main speakers in the dressing room at half-time, Cian outlined the message at the interval was a simple one. “Just getting onto the lads not to become complacent, keep digging out, I said if we could last the first ten minutes we’d be ok, we knew they would throw everything at us and they did. We gave four or five frees away, Jack Cahalane a super free taker, we knew we had to stop that or they would punish us”.

At seventeen years of age, Galvin displayed experience and leadership far beyond his years as he stressed the role of every single panel member. “The lads were excellent from number one to fifteen and the few lads that came on. As I alluded to in my speech, the lads in training, some of them weren’t lucky enough to get a jersey, the competition in training has been unbelievable, it’s brilliant for them too”.

St Flannan’s sit proudly atop the roll of honour list, the contribution from the 2020 Clarecastle contingent stands out as a decisive factor why they were flying high.

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