A club’s season can turn on a small thing. Clarinbridge were close to crashing out of the Galway county championship in the group stages last summer. It took a late free from Mark Kerins to snatch a draw off Beagh in their last group game, and without that score, they would not have even qualified, having lost their first two games to Kinvara and Portumna.
Eight months later they are Galway county and Connacht champions and within 60 minutes of reaching the All-Ireland club final and a day out at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
The only thing standing in their way of reaching the final is the Munster club champions, De La Salle (Waterford ).
Achieving a win next Saturday afternoon in Semple Stadium (3.45pm ) will not be easy. De La Salle is a very fine side, inspired by Waterford stars John Mullane and Kevin Moran, and the highly impressive Brian Phelan. The Waterford men had two close calls before clinching the Munster title last November. They defeated Sarsfields (Cork ) by a point in extra time in the semi-final, before edging past Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary ) by a point (0-9 to 0-8 ) in a low-scoring Munster final. Now they are hoping to become the first Waterford side to win the Tommy Moore Cup and get back into the All-Ireland final for the second time in three years. They were well beaten by Portumna in the 2009 final.
Drochead An Chlairín have appeared once in the All-Ireland fina, in March 2002 when they were beaten by Birr.
There will not be many changes from the team that beat Loughrea in the replayed county final, but there are a few close calls to be made by Micheál Donoghue and his management team. Over the past few weeks they have played challenge games against Tipperary , Offaly, Clare and GMIT and preparations for the game have been going well.
Club PRO Joe Egan is in positive form. “The mood is terrific in the club and we are all really looking forward to Saturday. The team took two weeks off at Christmas, but they have been working exceptionally hard at training since then and the mood in the panel is fantastic. There is a great buzz and the panel seems to be getting stronger and more unified,” he says.
“As of now the panel has a clean bill of health and they are really looking forward to the challenge at hand. We want Clarinbridge to be in the All-Ireland final in four weeks time and no stone has been left unturned to try to make that happen. De La Salle is a very fine club, but hopefully things will go our way and we will be preparing for an All-Ireland final from Saturday evening on.”
Clarinbridge sideline cuts
• Six of the players who lined out in the All-Ireland club hurling final nine years ago (March 2002 ), which Clarinbridge lost, will see action this Saturday. They are Liam Donoghue, David Forde, Jamie Cannon, Mark Kerins, Alan Kerins and Paul Coen.
• Donal Walsh, who was a selector on the management team in the 2001/2002 season, will fill the same role next Saturday for the club. He has also fulfilled numerous other key positions within the club over the years, including club chairman.
• Clarinbridge team manager this year, Micheál Donoghue, was the club captain in 2001 when the club won its first senior county title. He also won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1992 along with twin brother and Saturday’s goalkeeper, Liam.