Meet the Clare man masterminding success for one of Kerry’s greatest hurling clubs

ON SUNDAY AT the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, Kerry club Kilmoyley created a significant piece of hurling history.

They’ve been playing in Munster competitions at various grades since the 1960s but had never won a game until scoring an 11-point win over Limerick’s Monaleen in the AIB provincial intermediate semi-final.

For Kilmoyley, it was a landmark breakthrough. Having drawn level with rivals Ballyduff at the head of affairs in the Kerry senior hurling roll of honour (both clubs now have 24 titles each), the challenge was to kick on in the province.

But now Kilmoyley can achieve something that Ballyduff haven’t managed to do – win the Munster intermediate crown.

Ballyduff fell short in finals in 2011 and 2012 and now Kilmoyley’s chance has arrived.

On 20 November, they’ll lock horns with Lismore, who have brothers Dan and Maurice Shanahan in tow.

Kilmoyley will face Dan and Maurice Shanahan in the AIB Munster intermediate club hurling final.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

It’s a formidable assignment for Kilmoyley but they have plenty of class in their own ranks, with goalkeeper Aiden McCabe, Tom Murnane, Dougie Fitzell, Seán Maunsell and Adrian Royle all donning the green and gold county shirt in recent times.

And then there’s Daniel Collins, captain of the Kerry senior hurling team, a player inspired against Monaleen last Sunday.

Collins scored 1-7, could have had more and provided the assist for Maurice O’Connor’s first half goal.

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He said: “It’s a huge step for a club like us. I’m caught for words.

“Ballyduff got into the (Munster) final a couple of years ago and we always wanted to do what they did.

Tom Murnane is a key man for Kilmoyley.

Source: Cathal Noonan

“Now we’re there and we have the Shanahans coming from Lismore on the other side.

“We’ll be ready for that and we can’t wait.

“We probably had better teams through the years but you don’t have more of a united bunch.

“You see we lost Shane (Brick) there, Luke (Fitzell) and Sean Nolan from the county final – three other fellas came in and you see the job they did, it was absolutely fantastic.

“It’s all about the team – it’s not about anybody else.”

Fitzell may be fit for the Munster final, Nolan won’t, and perhaps Brick can be enticed out of retirement again, like he was for the county final and subsequent replay victory over Ballyduff.

Could Shane Brick make another Kilmoyley comeback?

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Guiding Kilmoyley’s fortunes is highly-rated coach Fergie O’Loughlin – brother of Ger, affectionately known as the ‘Sparrow’, who won two All-Ireland SHC medals with Clare in 1995 and 1997.

Fergie has managed  his native Clarecastle in the past and indeed, he was double-jobbing as far back as 2003, also working with current county champions Ballyea at the time.

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He’s also worked alongside Davy Fitzgerald at third-level with Limerick IT, served as a Kerry senior hurling selector, and guided the fortunes of Limerick outfit Bruff last year while also assisting Clooney-Quin in Clare.

Before Sunday’s game against Monaleen, O’Loughlin summoned the Clare spirit of 1995, when his clubmate Anthony Daly skippered the Banner County to an historic All-Ireland senior hurling title.

My cry inside in the dressing room before we came out – I mentioned Anthony Daly in ’95, that we were no longer going to be the whipping boys in Clare. That statement needed to be made in Munster club for Kerry hurling and Kilmoyley, that we weren’t coming up here to make up the numbers.

“Especially after last year, speaking to the boys all week, the hurt and disappointment over last year in Sixmilebridge against Shannon, they wanted to put that right.”

Managed then by John Meyler, Kilmoyley suffered a whopping 2-6 to 4-12 Munster quarter-final loss to Wolfe Tones last year but have obviously improved significantly since then.

Former Clare player and manager Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin.

Source: James Crombie

There’s been a shift in mindset, too. As O’Loughlin said, it was time to make a statement in Munster, and make a statement they did.

That’s one of the cries we had for the last few weeks, that after winning the county final we were either going to down tools or be serious at having a cut at Munster club. In fairness to the lads, after the week’s celebration after the county final, they decided to go back and they came back in numbers.

“I thought we had a great chance, their preparation was very good, they bought into it and it’s a fantastic feeling.

“The key to this is preparation for a Munster club. You just can’t go willy-nilly at it, you either take it serious or you down tools.

“Last year, in fairness to them, they just mightn’t have bought into a regime for the Munster club, whereas this year we bought into training.

“I was in no doubt that we were going to put in a good show, because of preparations, whether it’s a week or four weeks, you either decide to buy into it or you don’t.”

And against Lismore, there could be more history for Kilmoyley to write.

O’Loughlin smiled: “It’s something we’ll relish. We’ll go down, have a crack, we’re there, we can do something about it now. We’re in the Munster final and we’ll prepare for that. It’s going to be a totally different game.

“Seanie (Nolan)  is going to be out for another few weeks. Luke Fitzell may be back, maybe Shane Brick might come back for the final!”

Adrian Royle, goalscorer on Sunday, is pictured here with his daughter Lexi following the 2010 All-Ireland U21 B final win for Kerry.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

And so Kilmoyley will get back down to business in the coming days, with a much shorter turnaround to handle.

It was six weeks since they’d beaten Ballyduff in the replay before they took on Monaleen – and now there’s just a fortnight to negotiate before a crack at Munster glory.

“We didn’t start back training until four weeks ago,” Collins recalls.

“A week off and then a handy couple of weeks but the last three weeks have been hell for leather in that half an acre above in the field, literally running up and down. It all paid off.

“The only way to get better is to win the Munster final – and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

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