Winning ways helped forge an unbreakable spirit

Kilkenny senior hurling double champions and All-Ireland club intermediate kings, Clara, have no time to rest on their laurels because they are in action in the Leinster championship on Sunday.

Kilkenny senior hurling double champions and All-Ireland club intermediate kings, Clara, have no time to rest on their laurels because they are in action in the Leinster championship on Sunday.

Wexford club champions, Oulart the Ballagh are visitors to Nowlan Park in the provincial series, and they would have a huge advantage in terms of experience at this level on their Noreside rivals.

Clara will be ready, however. The celebrations can roll on long and hard until mid-week or so, but then it will be down to serious business again insisted team manager, Michael Purcell.

“It will be some job getting those lads to settle down,” Purcell smiled when he looked ahead to what will be a deadly serious test. “I wish we had two weeks to prepare. They are a good group who are interested in winning all they can, so they will know what they have to do.

“I would hate to leave it at this. The Leinster club championship is a great competition. Clara shouldn’t fear anyone. I know Oulart. They are a good team. This is the target in front of us now. I would hate it to go down here,” he added as he looked around the ’Park.

“If we are to go down, I wouldn’t want it to be in Kilkenny. That will be an added bit of pressure but it will give us a bit of ‘we must go for it’ attitude.”

The New Ross based teacher said the county final was hard won, as every county final was. In the end it came down to desire, he felt.

“I am not suggesting Carrickshock hadn’t the desire to win, of course they had, but we wanted it more,” he felt. “Clara have been the most consistent team in the championship. If you go back on the results from the start of the league it shows. Self belief helped us through some tough times.

“We have been making things happen for ourselves all season,” he continued. “They are a great bunch of young men with a terrific attitude to sport. They have intelligence, self belief and self confidence. At the end of the day those things are worthless unless you are a good hurler. These Clara guys are good hurlers.

“They are very good hurlers. It is the best teams that usually win matches. It is not the best managers or anything. It is the best team. I think we were the best team this year.”

Michael, who is in his first season with the club, has been a close observer of the scene in Kilkenny for years. Clara, he felt, shouldn’t have been relegated to the intermediate grade.

“I suppose that was a lesson in itself,” he suggested. “It was a big building block in getting today’s result. This proved they are not only senior hurler, but champion senior hurlers. They are worthy champions.

“I was involved with the Rower-Inistioge for the last two years and I remember when Clara came back intermediate thinking this is one year we are not going anywhere. They were a class team at intermediate level.

“The fact they have enjoyed so much success was a factor in this year’s successful campaign,” he added.

When reminded that Clara had won the league/championship double, the reaction was amusing.

“Oh yeah, the league,” he laughed. “It was important to us form a self confidence point of view. That was it. We gained a good bit from it. It wasn’t that we targeting the final or anything, it was just that we felt it was something for us to win, another step forward.

“We beat James Stephens in the final, which was a boost to us. We had beaten Shamrocks earlier. All the good results helped us develop into the team we are now. Hopefully we can keep things going.”