Ballygunner recently won the Waterford Senior Hurling Championship for the ninth year in succession. Imagine that. Now contemplate being part of it all. As player, mentor, administrator or ‘just’ an ordinary fan.
Think about the journey. The matches. The stories arising from same. For many, winning one county title could be the sum of lifetime’s work. Yet on another planet you have a story like that of Ballygunner.
They are far from alone in exerting a spell of utter dominance over a county championship. Kilmacud Crokes, Nemo Rangers, Corofin and Crossmaglen Rangers are just some of those who have garnared multiple titles at county, provincial and, in some cases, All Ireland level.
On the hurling front, Portumna, Birr, Ballyhale Shamrocks, Athenry and Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) have been serial winners. Of course, where there are winners, there have to be losers. Believe me, from the time I became properly attuned to all things GAA, Dunboyne teams have been witnessed coming up short in a plethora of finals.
What that then does is plant the rogue but in my view understandable seed in the mind of “What would it be like to live somewhere else”? To maybe become attached to another club? Now, there are other, personal reasons why such wandering thoughts notionally at least take hold.
For as wonderful as it surely must be to be attached to some of the venerated institutions mentioned above, it can’t be much fun being on the receiving end of their greatness. Even at a local level, it can be attested to as, next year, it will be 119 years since St Peter’s, Dunboyne reigned supreme ln Meath hurling. Though at the time of their last victory they had claimed the Jubilee Cup six times in eight seasons.
The thought does strike though, what are the multiply successful teams doing that us mere mortals are not? Is it structures within the clubs in question? Is it specific types of training or drills?
There has to be something which sets those who enjoy longevities of success apart from the rest. All most of us can do is look on in envious admiration. Any team who win anything – regardless of the rank and status of the competition – expedite gargantuan effort in doing so.
Perhaps no entity more so than Crossmaglen Rangers. Not only in terms of the elongated period over which they have been the dominant force in Armagh club football, but equally, considering the disruption and intimidation they have had to put with from occupying forces whose base was adjacent to their club facilities.
Sometimes, though, GAA people just can’t help themselves. Creating problems where there are none seems to be a birth right within the Association. However, given their back story, the thought of Cross’ falling into that trap would seem alien.
Yet no other conclusion could be arrived at other than the storied Orchard County outfit created a media event all of their own accord by their curios decision to remove Jamie Clarke from their matchday panel for last weekend’s local championship clash against Silverbridge. Having, it can only be assumed, engaged in serious persuasion to get the enigmatic forward back in the fold.
What’s most disconserting about the situation involving Clarke is the supposed reason for his omission, if correct. Basically that he had played soccer. That was no shock, of course, given that he had signed a contract with Newry in the Irish Football League some time ago.
Thus, the only conclusion this observer can arrive at is that the player must have played a match in the other code in the lead up to his intended GAA return. Highly unllkely as that surely seems.
Now, on the evidence of their most recent outing, the Rangers are chugging along nicely without the mercurially gifted left footed forward. Silverbridge gave them a better run than many have, but, with the ageless Aaron Kernan and Rian O’Neill excelling, the great winning machine rumbled on.
That said, it would be a great pity, for Cross’ themselves, for Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney and for football lovers everywhere if the wonderful Clarke were to be lost completely from the 15-a-side fare.