Ballyea star Gary Brennan knows that he may never have a year as enjoyable as 2016 again as a sportsman so he is doing everything he can to ensure he enjoys all that’s left of it.
This season the 28-year-old captained Clare to the Allianz Football League Division 3 title in Croke Park, played in an All-Ireland quarter-final and picked up an All-Star nomination.
In hurling he was a key part of the Ballyea side that won the club’s first ever Clare senior crown before going on to beat the mighty Thurles Sarsfields and book their place in Sunday’s Munster final against Glen Rovers at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday (throw-in 2pm).
“It’s been magical and if we can keep it going, great,” said the PE and Irish teacher at St Flannan’s in nearby Ennis.
“We’re very much aware that we’re fortunate to be in this position because there are very few clubs that get to represent Clare and then go all the way to a Munster final.
“There was a huge amount of fortune associated with our win over Thurles the last day and if we could be as fortunate again we’d take it!”
When asked to pin-point a high watermark in 2016 he says it’s hard to compare club with county, but he does reveal that the day they put their name on the Cannon Hamilton Cup for the first time after a county final replay win over Clonlara was incredible.
“It’s an entirely different thing to win one with the club. It’s great to have days like that,” he said.
“The night we came home with the county championship will live in the memory for all of us with bonfires out the road, a truck set up down the village, a piper leading us in - it was the stuff of dreams.”
Brennan is Clare’s football skipper and his Ballyea team-mate Tony Kelly was joint-captain of the Banner County’s hurlers this year.
Brennan plays his football with Clondegad, Ballyea's sister club from just up the road. Kelly’s family home is actually in Clondegad and he kicks a bit of ball with them occasionally too, though he has been a Ballyea man all is life.
“The field here is where it all started and that’s why it’s such a great feeling winning with the club - you’re winning with lads you grew up with and went to school with,” said the 2013 All-Ireland winner, Young Hurler of the Year and Hurler of the Year.
“It has a real parish feel to it and even though we’re not related, it’s the closest thing you can get to playing with your family. It has been a rollercoaster ever since we came back to the club from the county.
“With the wins in the county final replay and then Thurles in Munster the last day it has been a tidal wave of emotions - we won our first ever county title and then backed it up a week later by beating a team like Thurles Sarsfields,” added the 22-year-old final year accountancy student at UL.