Every year Newmarket-on-Fergus expect to be in the final of the Clare Senior Camogie Championship Final, anything else is a failure in the eyes of their players and manager.
Darren Hayes is aiming to lead his side to a second successive County title this Saturday when they come up against Inagh/Kilnamona, a team he has plenty of respect for. “The two best teams are in the final most people would agree with that, it’s going to be another tough test, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be physical, it’s going to be exactly the same as it was last year nip and tuck, point in it here, point in it there, hopefully after sixty minutes we’ll come out on the right side of it”.
In the semi-final Newmarket got over the challenge of Clooney/Quin, at half-time they had two scores on the board both of which were goals. It was a “strange” opening thirty minutes but Darren points to the character of the squad as a key factor in their victory.
“I can never question the girls’ character, they have that in abundance, they know what to do when the game is on the line, at times it’s really good to see, at times as manager your hands are tied, you can bring on a sub bring off a sub make a positional switch on the pitch really and truly once the players go over the white line it’s their game, it’s up to them they have to do what we’ve been training to do all year and they have to carry it out, it takes big players to do that and when you’re not playing well, we have big players that are able to do that and we’re blessed right through our team with big players all over the place”.
On the sideline he never loses faith in his players. “You never lose hope on the line and that’s one thing I’ve learned managing this group of players anyway, no matter how difficult the situation is or how difficult they think it is I never lose hope on the line until the game is over, they’ve showed that more than once since I’ve been involved with them, it’s a good thing to have, all the top players should have that bit of character, it’s easy to play well when things are going well but when the chips are down and things aren’t going well that’s the test of a player and their character and you see what they’re made of, we’re fortunate enough to have a number of players that have shown over the years that when things do get tough they’re well able to stand up to it”.
Leading up to games Hayes and his management team are left with some selection headaches, it’s a positive worry but one that can be difficult when has to let players down. It’s unfortunate you can only pick fifteen and bring five on, you feel sorry then for those who don’t get a run, I think in Newmarket we’re hoping for next year to maybe get a Junior team and get some of the older players back, I think it will benefit the club hugely and the senior team”.
A former manager of the Clare minor camogie team, Darren prefers to get a good result rather than a performance from his teams. If Newmarket are to get a result this weekend he feels a much improved display is needed. “Massive room for improvement, we haven’t been playing with what we’ve expected to be playing with, it’s not all about performance it’s about results, of course you’d like to go out and get that perfect game win by twenty points and everything goes well for you, when you’re at the top you’re going to always have teams coming to knock you off the top. We heard all the rumours coming out of Clonlara that they were targeting us and were gunning for us and they very nearly got the job done but they didn’t, we came through it, we’re there to be shot at but I’d rather be up there to be shot at than not, we enjoy where we are now and we definitely want to be back there next Saturday”.
Having reached the provincial decider last year Hayes would love another shot at the Munster championship but his eyes are firmly on Inagh/Kilnamona. “I’d be lying if I said no but I don’t want to look past next week, if we’re lucky enough to get to that position obviously we’d be gunning for it but it would be foolish of me to look past Inagh, I have a huge amount of respect for Inagh/Kilnamona their setup and a lot of their players who I would have worked with in Clare underage teams down through the years, there’s no way we’ll be looking past them we’ve a huge battle”.
He has managed both male and female teams, does he find a difference between either? “I’m waiting for that question, it’s a hard answer, it’s a lot easier when you’re at the top, things are a lot smoother. I managed the men’s Intermediate team last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it, against all odds we managed to stay up, I’d manage any team so long as the players are willing to give what’s needed to the cause the actual team and the club”.
Take a walk down to Fr Murphy Memorial Park in Newmarket-on-Fergus and regardless of what day of the week it is or who’s training, chances are Darren Hayes is down there because the club is number one to him and it’s something he treasures while he’s grateful the club has retained its senior hurling status for 2017
“I spend all my bloody life down there, the club means a hell of a lot to me. Newmarket GAA is definitely in my blood and very lucky to be involved with the club”.