A place in the All-Ireland Club Final is on offer for Ballyea when they go toe to toe with Galway champions St Thomas’ in Semple Stadium on Saturday evening.
Robbie Hogan has entered his sixth year as Ballyea boss, year five was undoubtedly the highlight as they won County and Munster honours for the first time. Tomorrow he plans to stick the same methods that have proved to be so successful in recent months.
“All year we’ve concentrated on ourselves and what makes us a good team and until something isn’t working, you don’t change it. So this week, it’s all about getting their heads right and as long as the lads go out and play off the cuff hurling, don’t go out with the fear of making a mistake and instead just express themselves, that’s all we can ask. They are factors that have worked for us so far so we’re not going to change that”, he told The Clare People.
Now that the New Year is upon them, Hogan and his panel of players are aware that their exploits are in the past. “I was disappointed to see the end of 2016 because in a new year, you don’t know what’s going to unfold in front of you. We had the momentum after the Munster Final but ultimately we don’t dictate when the games are played and we were quite happy to take the break at Christmas time”
One of the worries for Ballyea heading into the semi-final is whether their lack of a high pressure game will have an effect on them. Robbie doesn’t seem to think it will bother them come 5:30pm on Saturday.
“Obviously the gap between games is hard to manage and hard to find the right balance but we spoke to the players and we also listened to clubs on what previously worked for them and at the end of the day you’ll find a balance that suits you”.
Their opponents have been here before, Hogan is wary of St Thomas’ physical strength and their experience but he feels most of all the family ties on the team are their strongest attributes. Since their extra time defeat to Éire Óg in the opening round of the Clare SHC, Ballyea have overcome every obstacle in their path, St Thomas’ are a new test and one Hogan is determined to pass.
“It’s kind of an endurance test and it’s the team that endures it and gets the balance right that will do well in this competition”.