Tuesday 25 October 2016

A long road from Clare to here

Dubliner Bohan believes his adopted Banner have 'nothing to lose' against Kerry Goliath

Clare manager Colm Collins (left) and selector Mick Bohan. Photo: Sportsfile
Clare manager Colm Collins (left) and selector Mick Bohan. Photo: Sportsfile

Clare have already played Kerry once this summer - and lost by 12 points.

Thus, non-believers look at Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final rematch as an excuse to be fearful; but Mick Bohan can only spy reasons to rejoice.

Maybe it all comes down to mindset. Or maybe it's because Bohan can see the benefits of coaching predicated on a positive game-plan with every fresh victory for these so-called Munster minnows.

A skills coach under Jim Gavin when Dublin won the 2013 All-Ireland SFC title, this son of Clontarf agreed to become Clare coach this season when Colm Collins came calling.

One Division 3 league title and historic qualifier run later, regret doesn't come into it.

But it hasn't all been plain-sailing. Bohan harks back to June and that Munster semi-final in Killarney. Now, maybe the general public didn't bat at eyelid at the 2-23 to 0-17 result but it was, he ventures, "close to humiliating because essentially the game was over after six minutes, after conceding two goals.


"But we could have waited three years to try and have a crack at that again. It's a phenomenal situation. I know a lot of people are giving out about it ... but to have an opportunity within eight weeks, just to say, 'Let's see what we've learned, how much have we progressed, and what mistakes can we eradicate?'

"Sure, we've absolutely nothing to lose. And it's a matter of pride in ourselves now to see how much we've learned and improved.

"Initially, you hear the draw and you look at Kerry - and we all know what they're capable of and we've obviously massive respect for them, but that's where it ends. It's a competition; you go after the competition and you see what you've learned on the journey."

Bohan's own coaching journey has been varied and usually lined in silver. He was part of Mick Galvin's backroom team when Na Fianna retained their Dublin SFC crown in 2001 to make it three in-a-row, but their marathon Leinster club campaign didn't end - in painful extra-time defeat to Rathnew - until two days before Christmas.

"I still look back on that time and think 'How did the association make us play that game?' I remember walking the pitch in Newbridge on the 23rd of December: on the stand side it was frozen and out where the sun got to the field, the pitch was like a bog.

"I walked down the line with Mick Galvin and we said to the groundsman, 'This pitch isn't playable?' And he turned to us and said, 'Lads, the Curragh's off today - but then again horses are valuable'."

In 2003, Bohan led the Dublin ladies footballers to retain Leinster en route to their first All-Ireland senior final: "Mayo scored a 'square ball' to beat us!" is his rueful recall.

His link-up with Jim Gavin began in 2010 when he coached the Dublin U21s to an All-Ireland title. Three years later, he would help the capital's flagship senior team to the September summit.

For Bohan, Gavin's unshakeable emphasis on fine-tuning the skills of the game was a breath of fresh air.

"I'm a PE teacher, and I was thrilled that that was what he went after," he says.

"Certainly, the philosophy that I would have preached down the years, between kids in schools or club kids or development squads or club teams or senior inter-county teams - for me that is what you go and watch."

He harks back to when he'd go and watch Dublin teams and wonder: "How are these guys not executing the skills, considering the time they're putting in?"

It stems from the top man, he concludes, and Gavin sets the agenda.

Bohan was there again in 2014 when their back-to-back ambitions were torpedoed by Donegal. He recalls all the talk that summer of "unbeatable Dubs": the players identified the issue and tried to protect themselves from it, but he feels it did play a part in their ultimate defeat.


Bohan opted out last season as he struggled to absorb the loss of his father, Michael Snr, a native of Feakle in Clare, and then his best friend and former teaching colleague, Hughie Kivlehan, a Sligo native and former hurler who was living in Clare.

"I took the year out from Dublin because I wasn't in a good place at the time, and I was fully intent that I would be heading back," he says.

"Then I met up with Colm (Collins) and I just said 'Look, I'm going to do something just as a mark of respect for these two guys, because they'd a serious influence on my life'. So that was how it came about."

The journey has come full circle: from Dublin to Clare and all the way back to Croker.

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