This piece was originally published on LaoisToday in June 2020.
This week’s Down Memory Lane podcast looks back at the breakthrough Laois senior hurling success of Clough-Ballacolla in 2009, when they ended an incredible 91-year wait since their last county final win.
Though a parish steeped in hurling history, they hadn’t conquered Laois since the glory days of the Ballygeehan club and it was the first final to be contested under the Clough-Ballacolla name.
Indeed a team from the area hadn’t even been in the final since St Canice’s in 1965.
But in 2009, following a number of minor and U-21 glory days throughout the earlier part of the decade, their talented group of young players came of age at senior level.
On this week’s Down Memory Lane podcast, presenter Steven Miller is joined by the captain of that team Michael McEvoy as well as goalkeeper Danny Hanlon and full-back Darren Maher.
Over the course of a very enjoyable discussion, they look back on their gradual progress over the previous decade, beginning with intermediate success in 1998, flirting with relegation in the early part of the 2000s and consecutive semi-final losses to Portlaoise in 2007 and 2008.
In 2009, they survived a scare in the quarter-final against Mountrath before advancing after a replay and then beating Ballinakill in the semi-final.
With 2007 champions Camross and 2008 winners Rathdowney-Errill both knocked out in the quarter-finals, Portlaoise were odds on favourites in the decider – in what was their third final appearance in a row.
But under the guidance of former Tipperary player Raymie Ryan – who only linked up with them mid-summer – Ballacolla would blitz Portlaoise early on and ran out relatively comfortable winners.
Cue wild scenes of celebration and a couple of magic days in Ballacolla. “It was like being in Ibiza for two or three days,” joked Darren Maher.
“There was no work done in the parish. The pubs made enough money that week to last them until Christmas.”
The lads also touched on the work Raymie Ryan did with them in the lead up to the final and describe a powerful moment when they all crammed into the tiny Clough-Ballacolla dressing rooms to listen to a motivational song before heading to O’Moore Park on county final day.
And as well as looking back on that breakthrough success in 2009, they also chat about their wins in 2011 and 2015 and their disappointing final losses in 2012 and 2017.
You can listen in full below.
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