Monday 23 April 2018

'There are no excuses, it's s**t or bust at this stage for Clare,' warns Bugler

Clare's Brendan Bugler. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Clare's Brendan Bugler. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

For a squad littered with Celtic Crosses at senior and U-21, it's astonishing that only one of the current Clare hurling crop has played in a Munster final with 2013 All-Ireland-winning captain Patrick Donnellan holding the unique distinction.

Brendan Bugler was on the Banner scene in 2008 but after being sent off in the closing stages of their semi-final win over Limerick, he was forced to watch through gritted teeth as they fell to Liam Sheedy's Tipperary.

The Whitegate defender didn't realise it at the time but it would start a miserable sequence of provincial results, losing eight of their next nine Munster encounters and without a win since their 2013 quarter-final victory against Waterford.

As long as Bugler can remember there's been an excuse for Clare's provincial defeats and it hangs over them like a black cloud, but with a clear build-up to Sunday's semi-final against near-neighbours Limerick, it's now or never.

"It's been cat, like. One Munster final and that was back in 2008, and our record since then has been cat. It's not like we have gone into the first round or the Munster semi-finals not hoping to turn up," Bugler said.

"It just hasn't happened for whatever reason, but we all love the Munster Championship in Clare. From watching the teams, growing up and the big crowds at the games. It's a medal that we really want to get. There is no excuses any more.

"We had an excuse in '14 because of the hangover from '13. Then we were decimated with injuries in '15 and last year it was nearly too close to the league so there is no excuses at all. It's s**t or bust at this stage.

"I don't know what it is with Clare historically, even the great team that won the double league in the '70s, with Ger Loughnane and Sean Stack and them, they failed to win a Munster medal for whatever reason.

"Maybe it is something psychological, but we should have the confidence to know that we can do it having been successful at underage and having been successful in 2013. It's just about getting it right on the day."

When asked whether he'd prefer a Munster medal to a second All-Ireland, he'd gladly "take a Munster and see after that" but a conversation with fellow St Flannan's teacher and Clare legend Jamesie O'Connor sticks out in the back of his mind.

Turning 32 next month, it would have been easy for Bugler's motivation to slip but one more day in the sun drives him on, despite the two-time All-Star admitting he would be content with his lot if further silverware doesn't follow.

"The fact that you'd been there and that we'd had the success in 2013...personally, when you're kind of coming towards the end, you want to experience that just once more," he said as Littlewoods Ireland launched their inaugural sponsorship of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship.

"I can remember even talking to Jamesie O'Connor in the staff room and saying, 'Jaysus, it's that one more' and he said, 'Sure that's what we were all after, that one more big win'. I suppose that's motivation enough. As the cliché goes, win one, you are a good team. Win two, you are a great team. That's in the back of your mind as well."

The tag of "one-hit wonders" is unwanted but the woodwork teacher concedes their Liam MacCarthy success "seems like a lifetime ago" as they look to make amends this summer under new joint-managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor.

Their style of play is "less regimental" than under former boss Davy Fitzgerald and Bugler feels changes in their approach will be evident at the weekend.

"Ultimately, it's Munster Championships and it's All-Irelands that you are after. I would deem last year a little bit of a failure. There will be a couple of changes before Sunday, that comes with every management. I think there'll be a different dynamic to us this year."

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