When De La Salle had ‘3-3-1’ sewn onto their training tops during the 2012 county championship, each number respectively being the target they had set for the club to have won the county, Munster and All-Ireland title by the end of the season, it drew widespread scorn, scorn that seemed justified when they came up short in the Munster final. There was another story to that loss, but for lots of people the message would have been clear – after hubris comes nemesis.
After yesterday’s loss for Ballygunner at the hands of Cratloe in the Munster championship, I wonder whether we need to reappraise De La Salle’s cockiness. The Gunners are the undoubted kingpins of the county. You have to go all the way back to 1994 to find the last time that there were consecutive years where they didn’t make an appearance in the county final, and there is no doubt in my mind that their Munster title win in 2001/2 played a part in the loosening of the shackles on the county team in the years that followed. Which makes what I am about to say rather churlish, but I can only offer in my defence an assurance that what I say comes from a desire to see what is best for us all in general and Ballygunner as our representatives in particular.
For it is a harsh truth that Ballygunner have underachieved in the Munster/All-Ireland stakes. Thirteen times they have advanced to the Munster championship and only once have they seized the crown. You ‘d think that experience would count for something, but looking at the teams who have beaten Ballygunner in recent years it seems the opposite is the case. Cratloe have only won two Clare titles, in 2009 and this year. Na Piarsaigh of Limerick, Ballygunner’s conquerors in 2011, have also won only two titles – like De La Salle, those first two titles brought two Munster titles. Then there’s Newtownshandrum, who twice knocked out Ballygunner in the Noughties. Their purple patch of four Cork titles in that decade led to three Munster titles and an All-Ireland.
All of this suggests that the shock of the new may be a better pointer to success in the club provincial championships than the experience of the old. Perhaps Ballygunner’s ‘experience’ is weighing heavily on them. Can you imagine them trying to put ’14-2-1′ on their training tops next year? Please note that I really wanted Ballygunner to win yesterday,eagerly/ignorantly hammering the refresh button on my Twitter feed while out for a meal with my in-laws in Liverpool. But it gives me one more reason for my usually-annual list on who I would like to see win the county title – skipped this year; rearing the 2038 Liam McCarthy Cup-winning Waterford captain is proving to be rather hard – to hope that neither Ballygunner or Mount Sion (sixteen appearances in the Munster championship, two wins) land the county title.