Cratloe's dual-star army close in on double glory
11 code-crossers just three wins away from Clare coup
CRATLOE's sizeable band of dual players are chasing a county football and hurling dream double.
Last weekend their hurlers, managed by Joe McGrath and including All Stars Podge Collins, Conor Ryan and Conor McGrath, defeated Clarecastle to set up a final against Crusheen.
This Sunday, the Cratloe boys leave the hurleys at home and play the big ball game as they seek to defend their county football title and get past Cooraclare in the football semi-final.
Manager Colm Collins, who doubles up as the Clare football boss, could field up to 11 of the side which defeated Clarecastle in the hurling semi-final.
With no injuries to report, and the addition of Limerick football legend John Galvin to the squad following his recent transfer from Croom, Collins hopes to see the club in the two finals.
Clare's hurling final is fixed for Sunday week and the football decider for October 12, but Cratloe are concentrating only on the Cooraclare challenge which they face this Sunday.
The dual mandate has been a talking point in the Banner county following hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald's decision not to include players such as Podge and Sean Collins. The Collins brothers had wanted to play both codes for their county in 2015.
At club level, while there is no rest for the sportingly blessed players of Cratloe, manager Colm Collins and the squad members are not complaining.
"They're a fantastic bunch of players. We have fantastic support in the club and fantastic people in general in all aspects of the club. It's a good time for Cratloe at the moment," says Collins Snr.
"Maybe it's a bit alien to clubs that play only one code, that you would be in a county hurling final and you couldn't be holding back lads for the two weeks before it, but it works very well for us.
"The lads love it. They're very fresh. They enjoy this week in, week out run of matches."
Cratloe's first senior county championship came in 2009 courtesy of hurling, and the club broke new ground again by winning the 2013 Clare SFC, and eventually reached the Munster club final in which they were only narrowly defeated by Dr Crokes of Killarney.
By contrast with last year, when they were a surprise package, Collins knows his players are in the spotlight now.
"Last year was different completely. You've won it last year, and as is the same with all county champions, everyone wants to beat them the next year," he says.
"You're very popular when you win it the first time, but don't try and win twice!
"All we can do is worry about getting our own stuff right and doing things properly. Hopefully the results take care of themselves."
Collins acknowledges that the addition of Galvin is a boost to the squad, saying: "It's fantastic to get somebody of John's experience and obvious class. "He's been living in the parish for a few years now. Any club would be delighted to have him."
The Cratloe manager knows that Cooraclare will be only too delighted to dethrone the champions.
"We're anticipating a very tough challenge on Sunday," says Collins.
In the other football semi-final, Kilmurry-Ibrickane play Eire Og of Ennis tomorrow night.
Former Clare footballer Evan Talty of Kilmurry-Ibrickane has his own version of dual commitments, as he played on the Spanish Point GC team which retained the AIG Pierce Purcell Shield at Carton House in the GUI annual festival of top inter-club events.
Talty got no time to savour the golfing success. He is the Kilmurry-Ibrickane captain, and had to be back in time for a video analysis session at 8.0pm on Friday.
"There were no celebrations for me because we had a team meeting that night. The boys were gone back to the golf club celebrating and I was doing a video analysis for the semi-final," he explains.
"We were sitting down doing the video session, and I was fit to go to sleep. I was at home and in bed by 11.0. I was just shattered.
"I trained with the football team on Saturday evening and it's fine now, so it's all systems go for the Eire Og match."