Donoghue hopes to bridge lengthy gap
IT'S nine years since Michael Donoghue collected Clarinbridge's first county title as captain -- but it "feels like a lifetime ago".
Those were heady days for the club. As well as their breakthrough title, Alan Kerins was winning a football medal with Galway after narrowly missing out on a hurling medal a couple of weeks earlier.
Back then, it must have seemed unlikely that Clarinbridge would have to wait almost a decade for their next big day out.
But at that time, Portumna and Loughrea were on the rise. They would contest four of the next eight finals in a rivalry that would dominate the club scene in the county and that's why the rest of the country took note when Loughrea ousted Portumna in a semi-final replay a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Clarinbridge's eight-point victory in the other semi-final went almost unnoticed.
And there is a feeling that Loughrea's time has come. They were unfortunate to come of age when Portumna produced a remarkable run of results that included three All-Ireland titles.
They have served their time in purgatory. Only once in the four final meetings did Loughrea manage to turn the tables (in the controversial 2006 decider) but they were usually on the receiving end, not least when Portumna had 18 points to spare in last year's final
And Donoghue, who now manages Clarinbridge, has no problem going into tomorrow's decider as underdogs.
"They are favourites and deservedly so after beating Portumna. I watched their games. They learned a lot from the drawn semi-final and put it into practice in the replay and that's the sign of a very good team," he said.
And he rubbished suggestions that Portumna were a fading force after so many years of extended campaigns.
"I don't think anyone foresaw that. We played them earlier in the championship and they beat us and there was no sign of any fatigue there. They have been exceptional over the past few years and showed no mercy to anyone," he said.
Galway senior David Forde has shaken off a hamstring injury in time to take his place and Jamie Cannon returns from suspension, meaning Clarinbridge have a clean bill of health.
But it has hardly been a vintage season for Clarinbridge. They reached the preliminary quarter-final by the skin of their teeth, needing score difference to secure their passage. Since then St Thomas, Tommy Larkins and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry in the semi-final have all been put to the sword.
"We have a good mix of youth and experience. We have a couple of older lads who know what Sunday is all about after 2001.
"Then we have the younger guys who are coming along all the time," said Donoghue.
"Once we qualified for the knock-out stages, the lads really got their heads down and worked hard. We were beaten at the quarter-final stage last year when we had a few injuries. We didn't really set any goals for ourselves -- it's a game at a time."