BRENDAN BUGLER STUCK it out during the dark days and played the waiting game, reassuring himself the next wave of Clare’s underage talent was on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Now the Whitegate man is ready to reap the rewards of his patience.
The Banner prepare for Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Limerick with no fewer than 14 of their current U21 squad now involved at senior level. That leaves Bugler, who has only been hurling at senior since 2007 himself , as the second-oldest player in Davy Fitzgerald’s panel.
His performances in the half-back line won him an All-Star last season, the county’s first in six years, but this time around it is youngsters Podge Collins, Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin that are earning the rave reviews.
All three started in Semple Stadium last week as Clare romped past Tipperary and defended their Munster U21 title, but the focus now is on Croke Park this Sunday.
“I could see that there was good lads coming through so I just wanted to make sure I had myself right when they did make the senior grade,” Bugler explained.
“It was a kind of a weird situation as we’d never had success at minor or underage when I was there. Then you see these young lads come along, win two Munsters, be unlucky not to win an All-Ireland minor to be honest, and then win an All-Ireland U21.
“I suppose they made the transition a little sooner than people thought to be honest. I knew it would happen. I just had to wait, bide my time, and wait for it to happen.
“They have that bit of success from minor and U21 so they are bringing that little bit of confidence that probably wasn’t there the last couple of years. They are fantastic guys, they are buying into the set-up and great guys to be around.”
He added: “Young hurlers who have had that little bit of success, when they come into a setup, they bring that bit of freshness, that air of confidence. They’re not afraid to tackle you hard and they’re not afraid of the older lads whatsoever which is a good thing.
“You’d have other lads coming in other years, they’d be shy and maybe afraid to mingle. But it’s an advantage for those lads that so many of them have been brought in together. It makes it easier for them as they’ve been hurling together from U14 up.”
To win an All-Star last year was “special and overwhelming”, Bugler said, but he’s more concerned about winning medals than individual honours. Even with the influx of young talent, Munster glory eluded Clare again this season but if they can topple Limerick, they’ll be 70 minutes from the biggest prize of all.
“When I got [the All-Star], I said that as nice and all as it was, to win a Munster medal is what I wanted to achieve. We haven’t done that yet.
“It’s all about winning with your teammates. Individual awards at the end of a year are nice but I’m only thinking about those guys in there.”