If you fail to prepare be prepared to fail was an old saying former Irish soccer captain, Roy Keane, resurrected with some force years ago.
The former Manchester United star was speaking about what he felt were Ireland’s less than satisfactory preparations for the World Cup finals. Clara remembered the warning! They were ready because they had prepared for the critical moment when it arrived in Sunday’s senior hurling final.
They gambled that they might be awarded a close in free at some stage. Regular free taker Keith Hogan and Kilkenny star, Lester Ryan practised.
“We generally take turns taking them,” explained Ryan who stepped up to shoot the winning goal from a free in the 54th minute. “Keith is the free taker usually. I knew if I was standing up to the free I would have to go for it. We needed a goal. We had suffered two bad blows in the first half when conceding goals.”
The pair had been practising the taking of close in frees for weeks.
“No one told us who should take it,” Ryan continued. “Tom Murphy wanted me to take it. Mick Purcell wanted Keith. We had decided that whoever felt most ready when the time came should go for it.
“I asked for it. Next thing I known I am standing over the ball in front of the goal facing the Carrickshock lads. I didn’t think about scoring or missing. I remember running out the field and asking one of the Carrickshock lads were we winning. He wasn’t too happy telling me we were a point up.”
Ryan described Clara’s recent winning run as “remarkable.”
“We didn’t play well when senior in 2011 so we went down,” he said when he took up the story. “It has been an unbelievable run since. It is great, unreal. Winning the senior county final is absolutely everything. It didn’t matter what went before it.
“We knew after getting it tough in the intermediate grade that we were ready for the step up. We were half a minute from being out of the intermediate championship last year against Glenmore. We got a point to level. We drove on from there. That is how close everything is and was.”
A year on Clara are celebrating six title wins on-the-trot, including a senior league/championship double.
“The league seemed insignificant when we won it,” Ryan continued. “But when you put all the wins together and see the year we had you have to say it was brilliant. Our consistency was important.
“The run in the intermediate All-Ireland championship helped us. This game was tough, physical. We felt a physical game would suit them. We were trying to open it up but it didn’t work. To win on the terms we did was great. It’s so enjoyable. I want to soak up every second of it. I don’t want time to pass.”
Selector Tom Murphy felt Clara were brilliant on the day. He said it was hard to believe Clara from intermediate to senior and won the double.
“We left nothing behind us,” he insisted. “We were disappointed when going in level at half-time. We suffered a bad blow when conceding a goal just before the break. But you could see the character in the players. There was 30 minutes to go. They knew if they could hang in that we could pluck it.
“With the wind it looked like Carrickshock had a massive advantage. We played against the wind in matches this year and did well. We are good at running with the ball and taking it on. We were confident if we were there up to the last five minutes we could nick it.
“There is great self belief in this team. We could have 22 or 23 lads who could start on the team. Our great strength is the balance of the team. Talent wise the players are much the same. They have a spirit that is second to none.
“They are very skilful. A lot of them have become physically stronger too. We have John Phelan back at full-back, who is a tower of strength. We have Austin (Murphy) up front, who added strength to that department. We have Jack Langton, Chris Bolger, Conor O’Shea and Ciaran Prendergast who all stepped up their bid for place.
“We had a decent team anyway, but they pushing things along. They love hurling. Their minds are fully focussed and in the right place, and I would hope there is more to come.”