*Clare GAA Chairman, Kieran Keating. Photograph: Natasha Barton

CHAIRMAN OF CLARE GAA, Kieran Keating has hit out at the “very flawed process” that resulted in suspensions for two of the county’s senior hurlers this year while the need to provide facilities of a comparable standard to other counties was also stressed.

Proposed one match bans were issued for Peter Duggan and Rory Hayes following this year’s Munster SHC final by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC). The duo along with Galway’s Cianan Fahy were later cleared on a technicality flagged by Galway GAA which was that the meeting which proposed the suspensions was held online which does not constitute a meeting of the CCCC or any GAA sub-committee.

Delivering his address at County Convention, Keating recalled that the disappointment of the extra time Munster Final defeat “coupled with two of our players being threatened with suspensions in a very flawed process based on video review meant that we seemed to have a collective flatness in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Wexford”.

Giving his account of the senior hurlers’ year, he said of their exit in the All-Ireland semi-final that an “untimely injury to John Conlon meant he was a late withdrawal and unfortunately the gas just wasn’t there and we couldn’t bring the pace or intensity that Kilkenny did”.

John Conlon. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

For Brian Lohan’s third year as manager and the first of a renewed three-year term, defeats in the Allianz National Hurling League “showed that the focus was very much on the renewal of the round-robin games in the Munster Hurling Championship”. The return of “full-house attendances” was welcomed in a memorable provincial campaign which ended in a “thrilling final” that saw a winner decided after extra time.

Clare’s senior footballers “very capably managed by the longest-serving manager in the championship” Colm Collins retained their Division Two status in the League. For this year, he maintained, “road-trips to Croke Park, Navan and to Derry will give serious tests in advance of the championship and our home league games will again prove vital if we are to continue improving and competing to be as a top-tier county in both codes”.

Exiting the Munster SFC on penalties to Limerick was “a bitter pill”, the Naomh Eoin clubman stated. The response of the panel to make the All-Ireland quarter-finals was applauded but “an early goal-blitz by Derry gave us too much to do in that game”.

Brian McNamara in action for Clare’s U20 footballers. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Michael Neylon’s U20 footballers benefitted from participating in the Liam O’Connor Club, the Chairman maintained. Winning the Development League against Wicklow in Clarecastle set them up “nicely” for the Munster quarter-final where they overcame Tipperary. In the semi-final, “we gave a good first half performance and led our fancied opponents at the break, Kerry kicked on to win by six points and end our U20 season”.

“Reasonable optimism” for the minor footballers managed by Dermot Coughlan with “a facile win” over Waterford evaporated following defeats to Limerick and Tipperary to end their year.

Keating said the minor hurlers managed by Brian O’Connell “gave us some exhilarating evenings” as he listed out the away win over Cork, the Munster final display against Tipperary and the victory against Laois to set up an All-Ireland semi-final appearance versus Offaly. “The experience gained by these boys in so many competitive games this year will surely stand to them as they progress their playing careers into adulthood”.

After helping to give the whole county “a fantastic lift” with St Joseph’s Tulla winning the Dr Harty Cup, manager Terence Fahy took charge of Clare’s U20s. “The county U20 side had two of the favourites for All-Ireland honours, Cork and Limerick as round-robin opponents and despite a compelling display of skill and application, a late goal for Limerick broke our hearts in the Gaelic Grounds. The Cork game in Sixmilebridge became a must-win fixture then but Cork surged to the winning line in the last ten minutes and so ended our season at that stage”.

Keating voiced his thanks to all those involved with inter-county managements. “Preparation of inter-county teams requires resources and facilities that require big budgets and capital investment to ensure that our players have equal opportunity against their leading competitors. Our accounts reported by the Treasurer tonight show that we are in a healthy financial at the end of this year, and whilst our spend on intercounty teams is naturally higher than the shortened prior year, we are not spending the same sums as reported by some of our bigger rivals”.

Clare is at a disadvantage in the absence of training bases provided in other counties through the presence of third-level institutions. “We need to provide facilities of a comparable standard in our own county and on our own grounds. The provision of a fully floodlit all-weather full-sized pitch in Caherlohan has to be a near-term priority, in addition to resurfacing our sand-based pitches there, providing a more functional larger gym and related works”.

He told the County Convention in Hotel Woodstock that for too long a floodlit astro-turf facility in Caherlohan has been spoken about “We’ve kicked it to touch for long enough” and maintained 2023 was the time to deliver.

With the success of the ‘Win a House in Lahinch’ fundraiser, it has “provided us with a war-chest to begin properly planning for these capital investments,” Keating stated. Support will be sought from Munster Council, Croke Park, Sports Capital funding and other grants to progress these ambitions, he confirmed.

Pat O’Donnell’s ongoing role as the county’s main sponsor was acknowledged with the Chairman expressing hope more frequent trips to Croke Park will shorten the journey for the Dublin-based Crusheen man to matches next year.

“Delegates will be very aware that this Convention will be the first in over three decades that Pat Fitzgerald hasn’t organised,” Keating commented. He noted that the Sixmilebridge man who retired as county secretary in July “completed half a lifetime of work for Clare GAA both as a volunteer and full-time runaí”.

Sympathies were expressed to Gaels who passed on to their eternal rest in 2022 while the Chairman wished the quartet of Patrick O’Connor, Colm Galvin, Kevin Harnett and Sean Collins well on their inter-county retirements.

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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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