WHEN former All-Ireland winning Clare coach Louis Mulqueen came to Liam Mellows, he brought with him a massive reputation. As it has proven, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s county senior hurling championship final, that reputation has been justified.
It is remarkable to think that in the last five years, Liam Mellows’ have had to fight relegation on two occasions – including last year, when they had to beat City rivals Castlegar to retain their Senior ‘A’ status.
They were unlucky to lose out by a single point to Craughwell in the 2015 quarter-finals but, until earlier this month, they had not appeared in a county semi-final since 2008, when they were defeated 3-10 to 0-13 by the great – and hugely successful – Portumna outfit.
Yet, Mulqueen saw beyond all that when he arrived. He saw an “unique blend” in Mellows – “of the older heads and the younger element”. He saw the talent – “raw and innocent”. He saw a squad with great potential and he became “very motivated by it from the start”.
Sitting in a quiet room to the rear of Liam Mellows’ clubhouse in Ballyloughane, the language Mulqueen speaks is full of vitality and enthusiasm and if you put on the infra red glasses one would imagine all you would see would be this great ball of quantum energy in the seat the Clare man currently inhabits. Big days and county finals are the physics of his universe.
“It is great for Mellows to be there but we just don’t want to turn up and just have the occasion,” says Mulqueen of the City side’s first county final appearance in 47 years. “They (the players) want to go and win it because they might not get too many chances like this again. That is sport.
“I will never forget when I went back to St. Joseph’s (Doora/Barefield) in 2003 and we got to a county final and we lost by a point to Kilmaley in injury-time. I can still see the ball going over the bar now. I couldn’t tell you about the times winning at Croke Park but I remember that. It is funny how the mind works and the things that stick in your mind.
“I remember Ken Kennedy saying to me in the dressing room that day with Joseph’s, ‘not to worry, we will be back next year’. Joseph’s haven’t played in a county senior final since, 15 years later. So, this is Mellows chance to play in a county final.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.