Our Winning Minor team of 1998

When one thinks of the hurling year of 1998, heated throw-ins, sheep in a heap, suspensions, referees struggling with stopwatches and a sitdown protest immediately spring to mind but for CLG Cora Chaitlín it was when we finally came out of the fog.

Back then, The Clare Champion was the go to sports newspaper in the county, at the beginning of the year, it predicted that depression and despair will remain over Newmarket hurling well into the next millennium. The gloom lifted and the tide turned with the club contesting championship finals at U11, U12, U13, U14, U16, Minor and Junior in the twelve months.

For the first time in thirty years, Newmarket-on-Fergus were crowned Minor A champions. The seeds of which this victory were planted the year previous with Brian ‘Beano’ McMahon stepping up to give a rousing speech that has stood with manager Pat O’Leary to this day. “To see the enthusiasm was scary, they were so psyched for that match, I had been in dressing rooms that had played Clarecastle and there was fierce tough matches but I never saw the amount of intensity”. Such was the energy oozing out of the dressing room that Brian Tuohy instead of waiting for the gate to the field to be opened, somersaulted over the fence.

Their 98 championship bid began with a 2-20 2-03 win over Éire Óg on July 3rd, further victories were recorded against Wolfe Tones (4-11 0-03), Corofin (2-10 0-08), Tubber (0-11 0-07), Clarecastle (0-09 0-08), Tulla (1-13 1-07), O’Callaghans Mills (5-22 0-02). A draw with Sixmilebridge (1-08 2-05) guaranteed top spot in the group.

Travelling outside of Clare for challenge matches against Patrickswell and Athenry saw the players playing at a higher standard and going toe to toe with county players such as Diarmuid Cloonan. At the time, the second pitch was not in existence at Fr Murphy Memorial Park and so as well as using O’Rourke’s Field, on ten occasions training was timed to conclude at dusk and from here the players travelled to Dromoland for physical sessions.

November 21st was pencilled in as the date for the semi-final clash with Sixmilebridge, at U16 level the Bridge defeated the Blues by sixteen points, the draw earlier on in the year between the sides was an indicator of the progress being made by O’Leary and his management. It was a case of ‘make way for Dominic McMahon’ in the last four outing at Killaloe as the corner forward chipped in with 2-02 out of Newmarket’s 2-05 to beat the Bridge by a single point.

Killaloe was the venue for the final versus Tulla on December 5th. The foggy weather conditions made visibility difficult for both sides in what was Newmarket’s last outing of the year. Being better accustomed to adverse weather conditions coming from the Windswept Hill, Tulla took control first and put two points on the board, Brian Clancy and McMahon equalised and the Blues would never fall behind for the remainder of the game. A blistering ground strike from Sean Arthur and an Aidan Guinane effort sent the umpires reaching for the green flag in the first half with scorers becoming scarce on the resumption.  In defence, Padraig Kilmartin was assigned to Andrew Quinn who was beginning to exert his dominance on proceedings. A late Tulla free was sent over the bar by Keith Begley and his batch of defenders and The Blues triumphed 3-06 1-10.

During his playing days, Pat won 10 Clare senior championships and was captain of the side that won the 1974 title. “That was one of the happiest days of my life,” is his feeling towards the foggy  December day in Killaloe twenty years ago. It’s a time of “fantastic memories” for him.

A quick scan of both team lists sees the discovery that just one representative from the minor side of 98 would follow in O’Leary’s footsteps and win a senior championship, that being Padraig Kilmartin while seven of the Tulla panel they faced that day would start when the club became senior champions in 2007 for the first time in 74 years. On why senior success seemed to elude this bunch of minors, Pat adds, “It was just unlucky that there wasn’t a better backbone of a senior team. Of that minor team, I’d say ten went on to the senior team it was too many, you can’t bring that many at once”.

They will not and should not be defined for that, instead many of them have gone on to be successful in their own unique ways. Captain, Brian Clancy earlier on that year became the first Newmarket player to lead St Flannans College to Harty success, he got to work on lifting trophies as the year progressed raising aloft the Dr Croke Cup and Willie Chaplin Cup. He joined up with Ryan as part of the 2010 management and has recently vacated the role of Asst Treasurer.  His emergency landing a year earlier may have been a sign of what lay ahead for Brian Tuohy who now works as a pilot.

Keith Begley who had been performing very well at corner forward was moved into goals when Seamie Lawlor sustained an injury during their campaign, Begley is now a sport and performance psychologist who has worked with inter-county teams while Lawlor has racked up a sizeable amount of titles, be they in the handball alley or on the soccer field.

As well as being listed as Martin O’Hanlon’s childhood hero in Tradraí 2014, Aidan Ginnane is still fondly remembered for his soloing ability, Karol Lynch is now a member of Stocktons Wing, fellow substitute David McCormack was the first person home in the 2018 Club Turkey Trot, Alan Hogan has tirelessly promoted Gaelic Games in the Far East, Kieran Boyce has been kept busy tending to the plumbing needs of the people of Clare. Dominic McMahon whose dancing feet troubled minor corner backs throughout the county that year, at the other end Anthony O’Donoghue followed the law of thou shall not pass greatly aided by Enda Kelly and Pakie McCormack whose interception on Rory Hogan in the decider testament to their defending.

Full-back on the team, Tomás Ryan always had the leadership qualities and of the team he has proven to be the best when it comes to management and coaching. Things came full circle when he managed the Minors of 2010 to championship glory against Sixmilebridge, he’s now leading the revival of the U8s and is a certain contender for an unsung hero in the club. Alongside goalscorer Sean Arthur they have been key to keeping this panel of players in contact and both have also had stints as senior selectors.

In his first report as secretary, Pat Freeman noted in 1998, “After many years of defeats and disappointments, it finally appears as if hurling in Newmarket-on-Fergus is in a very healthy position”. Credit must go to all of the minor panel from number one to twenty seven and their management for inspiring a generation that followed. A lot of events in life can be repeated, your final year of minor hurling cannot.

On Friday evening, a reunion will be held at The Sports Bar as memories of old are retold, opinions on how the club is doing are dished out in abundance plus plenty of craic, feel free to pop in and join them.

For the record, the Newmarket-on-Fergus panel and management from 1998 was; Keith Begley; Anthony O’Donoghue, Tomás Ryan, Padraig Kilmartin, Enda Kelly, Brian Clancy, Pakie McCormack; Richard Meehan, Brian Tuohy; Kieran Ryan, Sean Arthur, Eoghan Ryan; Dominic McMahon, Aidan Ginnane, Patrick Liddy. Subs: Seamus Lawlor, Alan Hogan, David McCormack, George Meehan, Eugene Mahony, Karol Lynch, Kieran Quinn, Niall Duggan, Joe McMahon, Eoghan Hanley, Kieran Boyce, David Collins.

Management: Pat O’Leary, Paddy McNamara, Kevin Halpin, Liam Whitney, Mike McCormack, Brian McMahon, Dan McNamara.


By Páraic McMahon (on the request of CLG Cora Chaitlín)

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