Clares's No.3 Was The No.1 Full Back Of Hurling

Brian Lohan Of Wolfe Tones Na Sionna And Clare's Greatest Ever No.3

 

My ageing memory takes me back several decades to recall so many great full backs of hurling but the men who occupied the No.3 shirt in distant days hardly moved outside the small white lined area directly in front of the goalkeeper.

 

Shouts of “Keep Him Out” could be clearly heard from sideline mentors and the full back was oft times a roundy figure and sprinting was never on their agenda.

 

The No.3 and the No.14 positions were known to be a huge part of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and spectators came in their thousands to witness a battle royal right in front of the posts. Referees were often onlookers as the No.3 and 14 men traded many blows - and bust ups in the square were quite frequent.

 

It would be the 1970’s before mentors realised that the No.3 slot also needed skillful hurlers to man- mark fearsome full forwards such as Wexford’s Tony Doran and Cork’s Ray Cummins.

Full backs such as Limerick’s Leonard Enright and Martin Doherty of Cork were acclaimed hurlers who pioneered new standards for full back play.

 

As the decades strolled onwards to the 1980’s it was no longer a requirement to place a burly No.3 beside the goalkeeper and when full backs such as Clare’s Brian Lohan emerged, a totally new regard and respect emerged for full backs.

 

‘The Rock’ from Cork, Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Clareman Brian Lohan, caught the imagination of hurling fans all over Ireland and spectators came in their thousands to witness a whole new ball game in the art of full back play.

 

Our subject matter is Brian Lohan and a wonderful career is recalled as we incorporate the Wolfe Tones, Shannon, Co. Clare, dynamic full back into our All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery @ www.scoreboardmemories.com .

 

In the formation of his hurling career, Brian Lohan did not feature as a stand out future star at minor and under 21 grades and success eluded the Wolfe Tones clubman.

A senior inter county debut in 1993 V Galway in the National Hurling League was the platform that launched a glittering inter county career wearing the No.3 Clare jersey right up to 2006.

 

Under Tipperary man, Len Gaynor, Clare contested two consecutive unsuccessful Munster senior hurling finals in 1993 and 1994 and during this reign, selector Ger Loughnane knew this squad needed something extra special to bridge a gap from 1932 to 1995.

 

Brimming with enthusiasm to take over at the helm, Ger Loughnane, did it his way following his appointment as team boss.

 

In my interview with Brian he stated “Ger Loughnane is the best orator he ever had the pleasure of encountering; and before we pucked a solitary sliothar under Ger, we knew the bar was now raised several feet higher for all of us”.

Nobody flinched a muscle when Ger spoke, he had us in the psalm of his hand. We were Loughnane’s angels. Step out of line and out you went.

 

It was a totally new discipline to follow in terms of new training methods; dietary controls and most importantly, psychology was the backbone of Ger’s mission. Belief and more belief became the catchphrase of the squads ability.

 

When Munster championship season 1995 finally dawned the Clare team that opposed Cork at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, were, without question, the fittest and most dedicated group of Clare hurlers ever to grace the famed Limerick venue.

 

Ollie Baker’s late, late goal, will forever be recorded as the plantation seed to take Clare hurling to unprecedented joys and end a famine that endured since 1914. During this amazing journey Brian Lohan became an iconic fixture in the No. 3 Clare jersey and if ever a full back stole the limelight, it was the mighty Brian.

Ger Loughnane knew that not only did he possess a future star No.3, he also had one of natures real gentlemen on and off the field.

 

In my own meeting with Brian on Saturday 14th January 2017 at a Limerick Hotel, I was only a few minutes into my interview when I realised, this star former player was my dream interviewee.

No airs and graces, just totally relaxed discussions and matter of fact snippets of information.

 

I had read Ger Loughnane’s appraisal of the legendary full back prior to my meeting with Brian.

I soon discovered how mutual the respect was between both men and no longer had I any illusions about the mystique of the Feakle hurling coach.

 

My own Loughnane rating went from a small 6 out of 10 to a maximum 10 and that despite the fact I have never spoken a word to Ger Loughnane.

In furtherance of Brian’s respect for the Clare messiah, he stated “No way would I have two All Ireland senior hurling medals and four All Stars, without the huge contributions that Ger Loughnane contributed to Clare and my hurling career”.

 

Brian’s club in the apprenticeship of his hurling career was Wolfe Tones of Shannon Town, who in 2017 will celebrate the clubs Golden Jubilee.

On my visit to the Wofe Tones club complex on a Sunday morning the scale and magnitude of the clubhouse and grounds was simply breathtaking.

The facilities are state of the art 21st century and the club puts out a very prosperous image from the moment of entry at the main gates. Located in the very heart of a huge commercial and industrial region, Wolfe Tones, at first glance, send out a very positive reading.

 

It was here in Shannon that Brian Lohan inducted himself into the hurling community of Wolfe Tones, Clare and Ireland  and proceeded to become a modern day fearless and enterprising No.3 and there can be no doubt that Brian was one of the most influential players in the club as he went up through the grades to reach senior hurling status and claim the clubs first ever Clare senior hurling title in 1996.

 

That maiden success came a mere 29 years after the foundation of the club in 1967 and announced the club's arrival in Clare’s senior hurling roll of honour.

 

In the Munster club championship of 1996 Wolfe Tones marched to the All Ireland final on St. Patrick’s Day 1997. Their opponents, Athenry of Galway, were a team in top gear in their own county in the 90’s and duly beat Wofe Tones at Croke Park.

 

Ten years onwards (2006) Wolfe Tones claimed their second senior county success but the journey came to a halt here in the Munster campaign. The Clare Junior championship was annexed in 1974 and again in 1979 whilst the Clare Intermediate championship came to Shannon town in 1983.

 

On retirement in 2006 Brian Lohan stayed with hurling in a coaching capacity and now steers University Of Limerick in 2017 with sights firmly fixed on the upcoming Fitzgibbon Cup journey.

Brian also done some coaching at his home club with the juveniles and he also coached at the famed Patrickswell club, Co. Limerick.

 

The former full back and Bank Of Ireland official took up the Auctioneering and Financial Services business in 2006 and successfully operates out of a Shannon Town office specialising in Residential; Commercial and Industrial property sales and lettings. Pensions business is also a major portfolio of Brian Lohan’s business.

 

My Saturday afternoon interview with Brian Lohan introduced me to a giant of hurling and one of natures real gentlemen talking sport.

 

Hurling in the Lohan family started in Cappatagle, Co. Galway, in the 1950's where Brian's father, Gus, took his first steps on hurling's ladder and the story of the Lohan hurling dynasty in the intervening decades is a subject matter I plan to persue in the upcoming future months.

 

Gus, and his sons, Brian and Frank, have a great and unique hurling story that will reach out to all our readers and browsers around the globe and I look forward to the big interview.

 

Honours Summary:

Inter County:

All Ireland Senior Medals: x 2 (1995; 1997)

Munster Senior Medals: x 3 (1995; 1997; 1998)

Railway Cup:  4 (1 as sub)

Inter County Career: 1993 – 2006 (54 appearances)

All Star Awards x 4  (1995; 1996; 1997; 2002)

All Star Hurler Of The Year:  1995

Powerscreen Hurler Of Year:  1995

 

Club Honours Summary:

Clare Senior Medals: x 2 (1996; 2006)

Munster Senior Medals: x 1

 

Fitzgibbon Cup Medal: 1994

 

Derry JF Doody

Editor