Moment when Liam MacCarthy Cup inspired next generation of hurlers
The picture on the wall of their former national school speaks volumes.
It was just a few weeks into junior infants when future Clare hurling heroes Conor McGrath, Conor Ryan and Liam Markham came face to face for the first time with the man who would become their inter-county manager 18 years later.
That September day in 1995 was a special one in the life of St John's National School in Cratloe, Co Clare, when goalie Davy Fitzgerald brought in the Liam MacCarthy Cup, following the county's historic win in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final after a drought of 81 years. Little did he realise the impact it would have on the pupils.
Now hopes at the 270-pupil school are pinned on Davy Fitzgerald and Liam MacCarthy making another visit next week.
Deputy principal Mary Farrell said the excitement was palpable. "There was great excitement in the build-up to the last match against Cork and Cratloe was a pivotal part of that, because so many of the team and people associated with them are from the area."
She remembers well her former pupils, but said Cratloe's links to the team go even further.
Conor McGrath and Conor Ryan are past pupils, as are subs Cathal McGrath and Liam Markham. Padraig Collins and his brother Sean, who is injured, also grew up in the village. Davy Fitz hails from nearby Sixmilebridge while members of his back-room team, Mike Deegan and Paul Kinnirk, are also from Cratloe.
"They're lovely role models for the pupils that are here now. They're so used to seeing them around or at training and matches and they always have time for them," she added.
Retired principal Jody O'Connor said the visit of the Clare team back in 1995 had a profound impact on their young pupils.
"We always had a strong hurling tradition in the school and we got a big class of boys in junior infants that year, all mad for games, and we just harnessed that and they went on to win great success for the school and for their club," he said.
The pupils will get their All-Ireland Final weekend off to a start tomorrow when they'll wear jerseys of their choice to raise money for Millford Hospice.
Build-up to the big game: Sport