SIX months on from Cloughduv’s heart-breaking IAHC final defeat to Dungourney and it’s all change at the Muskerry club.
Blackrock’s Ray Delaney stepped down as manager at the end of last season after two seasons in charge with Dick Cronin replacing him at the helm with Na Piarsaigh’s Daniel Morrissey the new coach.
Cloughduv are down more than 10 players from last year’s panel due to a number of retirements, players travelling and other factors. But with exciting players coming through, many playing a key part in the clubs Muskerry U21 A hurling championship success last year, there’s hope the younger players can step up to the plate.
The team in green and gold have started the 2023 RedFM Division 5 hurling league with some encouraging performances, winning two and losing two from four games played.
While he’s still relatively young at 23 years of age goalkeeper Conrad Crowley is now one of the more experienced players on the team which underlines how young the team is.
Despite beating Dungourney on a score line of 2-18 to 1-19 earlier in the 2022 season in round 2 of the group stage, Cloughduv were unable to beat the Imokilly team in the final losing 1-16 to 0-13.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. The netminder who works as a stock trader in Dublin was eager to talk about 2022 first and set the record straight.
“We had a brilliant run in last year’s championship and we had real momentum,” he said.
“We performed to the best of our ability in all but one game and it was somewhat anticlimactic that at the end of the season we couldn’t get over the line.
"Historically Cloughduv haven’t been great in finals in terms of performance levels, but I wouldn’t say that was the case last year.
"I don’t think beating Dungourney in the group stage played too much of a factor or affected our mentality in the decider.
"We were in the final for the vast majority of the game. There has been a perception out there that Cloughduv failed to perform on the big day again but I don’t think it was anything to do with stage fright or anything like that.
As outlined above there has been a change of management in the close season and Crowley has huge praise for the departed manager and thinks the new management ticket is just what they need given the turnover of players.
“Ray Delaney is a very good manager, very experienced and a tactical manager.
"Often when teams lose in a final the manager is the first person to be blamed but I think there’s too much randomness in a single game to say he wasn’t a good manager because we didn’t get over the line.
"If we won the final Ray would have been hailed as one of the greatest Cloughduv managers. I don’t hold much water to the theory that he wasn’t a good manager because we lost the final. He did brilliant work over the two years in charge and I have the utmost respect for him.” says the goalkeeper.
“I think the change in management could be a good thing in the sense that you need different ports for different storms. Ray was great with the team we had, there’s more than 10 players gone from last year and the new management team are probably what we need for the here and now.”
The Muskerry outfit are in with second strings Midleton and Douglas as well as last year’s premier JHC winners Ballygiblin in the IAHC group stage. Despite the outside talk that Cloughduv might struggle, Crowley has totally dismissed that notion.
“While it’s fair to say we don’t have as deep a squad we had last year I am not convinced the quality of our team has gone down.
"We as players hear what people are saying and I have heard myself from players from other clubs that they think we might be in spot of bother.
"The group stage will be tough but we will relish it when the time comes around.
"Despite largely a new team we are still Cloughduv, same passion and hunger to win. There’s great positivity within the panel.”