This Sunday Cratloe take on Kilmurry Ibrickane in the Clare SFC Final, thirty men will do battle but only one of them is the holder of an All-Ireland SFC medal.
That man Antóin McFadden was part of the Donegal panel of 2012 that brought Sam Maguire up North for the first time in four years. On Sunday, he is part of the Cratloe team hoping to bring Jack Daly down South for the first time in two years.
A brother in law of Jim McGuinness, McFadden has been very impressed with his Cratloe boss, Colm Collins. “It’s been an absolute brilliant experience to get an opportunity to be involved with him. I’ve been involved since around April, it’s actually been a learning curve and very refreshing to work under Colm, he’s just got a great way about him and a great way of getting the very best out of the players and it’s great to be able to work under somebody like that because it’s something that I’m doing myself at the minute, coaching and managing teams in Limerick”.
This year he was Strength and Conditioning coach with the Limerick Senior Footballers, an appointment that came on the back of coaching Newcastlwest to glory in the Limerick championship last year. He took charge as manager of the 2015 Limerick champions who came up short in their bid to retain the crown.
Becoming involved with teams from a different angle is helping Antóin improve his own game. “You definitely do learn things, you look at things from a different point of view and you can use them things to your advantage when you’re a player, it definitely is useful”.
During his time studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Science & Health at DCU, he collected two valuable possessions, namely a Sigerson Cup medal and an All-Ireland Freshers equivalent. In doing so he got to play alongside the likes of Dean Rock, James McCarthy and Rob Hennelly.
How do his current Cratloe teammates rate in comparison to players who have gone on to win All-Ireland medals? “There isn’t any difference between them to be honest, from a talent point of view and a skills point of view Cathal McInerney, Podge Collins and the likes are up there and they’re on the same level as the likes of Dean Rock, Johnny Cooper and the boys from Dublin there’s no separation there. I suppose one maybe difference there would be is the huge emphasis Dublin and them teams put on their strength and conditioning and the physical aspect of their game” McFadden told The Clare Herald.
Seventeen minutes in to their semi-final against St Josephs Miltown, Cratloe had conceded four goals and were eleven points adrift. Their comeback was one of the club’s greatest and for Antóin it sums up the spirit of the two time champions. “Some character, it just sums them lads up, it’s something special, it’s something that not a lot of teams have, one word to describe the Cratloe lads is their winners, they really believe that they are winners, we went four goals down the last day and not for one second did them lads doubt themselves, they one hundred percent believed in themselves and it’s something really special”.
With his former club St Michaels, McFadden won a U21 championship and lost out in the 2011 senior decider. He’s yet to win a senior club championship as a player, as a vital member of this Cratloe team he can almost touch the medal. He may only be a new resident in the South Clare village but moving to the windy gap is something the twenty seven year old will treasure.
To win would mean a great deal to the Strength & Conditioning coach. “It would be brilliant, I’ve never won a County Senior medal before as a player, I won one last year as a coach with Newcastlewest and that was a phenomenal feeling. To win it with Cratloe would be something special, probably be something I’ve never felt before. Moving to Cratloe was probably one of the best decisions I ever made, I’ve done nothing but enjoy it since I came here, the attitude of the players, the way they carry themselves, the positive attitude that they have and the way they’re so focused and disciplined it’s a great experience, being able to play with them and to be able to get a medal with them would be a great way to top it off”.
Thought goes into every decision made by Antóin, he did likewise with his decision to move to Cratloe, a decision he is very satisfied with. Winning that elusive County senior medal would make him all the more satisfied.