Ger Loughnane has never been afraid to prod the beast that is the Kilkenny senior hurling team. During his ill-fated tenure as Galway manager, he muttered darkly about their 'hurling savagery'.
In 2009, he used the light-hearted Sunday Game slot 'Club Call', in which he took a training session with a Junior E team in Dublin, to take a very mischievous jab at Tommy Walsh.
Well, now, after a year in which Kilkenny won the League and All-Ireland titles, scooping the minor title while they were at it, Loughnane is bullish enough to predict that Kilkenny's era of dominance is over and that Clare will take over.
Loughnane was speaking at a presentation of Clare's Munster and All-Ireland U21 medals in Ennis last Saturday. Clare FM's Derrick Lynch reported the comments for the Examiner.
The big ogre is beginning to lose his sense of danger, Kilkenny.
There’s a gap in the market again and we are ideally positioned to exploit that gap. We have now come from a position of being nowhere at underage level to being the dominant underage team in the country.
We are dominant because now when people ask who have we to beat to be successful at U21 level, they immediately say Clare.
If we can get to that situation at senior level, wouldn’t it be brilliant to get back there again, and if every team said the team we have to beat is Clare.
I am certain, with the quality of player, and the quality of leadership and management we have, that very soon, that’s exactly where we will be.
He urged Clare's not to follow the lead of the successful Limerick and Galway underage teams. He suggested that those teams failed to achieve at senior level because of the corrosive levels of back-slapping and self-congratulation that greeted their wins.
Do you choose the path taken by Limerick U21s who won three in a row, numerous Galway teams who won several (underage) All-Irelands, and that was the path well trodden.
As you go along that road you will have plenty people clapping you on the back and saying well done, enjoy life and have a few drinks.
That will lead you to a place called Easyville, and eventually a place called Oblivion, where no one will remember you.
He said the alternative path open to them was 'the uphill path trodden by the legends of hurling, some of who you have seen retire in the last few weeks... You are the most talented players we have ever had, and now you can bring Clare hurling to a new level, but only you can decide that.'
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