Conor Whelan: 'I still have a lot to work on'
By John Harrington
Corner-backs beware, 2017 Young Hurler of the Year, Conor Whelan, still thinks he has a lot of room for improvement.
The Galway corner-forward was sensational in this year’s Championship and looks poised to become one of the greatest hurlers of his generation.
He burst onto the scene in impressive fashion as a teenager in 2015, and since then has gone from strength to strength.
He’s now very much a marked man, and that’s why it was satisfying from his point of view to make such an impact in this year’s Championship.
“I suppose there's a small bit of satisfaction in so far as you develop from having potential to filling it a small bit, but there's still lots of areas to work on,” Whelan told GAA.ie.
“Collectively it was a great year for Galway and I just happened to be on the end of some moves. We just worked well as a unit. I wouldn't be anywhere without the other five or six Galway forwards.
“2015 was a free shot for me really. No-one knew anything about me and it was hard for the opposition to focus in on me because they didn't know anything about me.
“There was a safety net there in so far if it went well, then great, but if it didn't go well then it was, 'ah, it's his first day out'.
“That's quickly taken away though by the time 2016 came around and you have to adapt your game and develop.
“It was the same this year and it'll be the same next year. We'll have to come back stronger because there'll be six or seven teams challenging hard again.”
Whelan expects beaten All-Ireland finalists Waterford to be leading that chasing pack.
The Deise came up short against Galway this year, but Whelan thinks that experience will really stand to them in 2018.
“It was a massive thing for Galway this year that we had that experience of being there before,” said Whelan of this year’s All-Ireland Final.
“There were some lads who played in three finals, and I know from having played in one final myself previously that there's no doubt it benefits you.
“Waterford will be kicking themselves after losing the Final, but they have the experience now and nothing beats that experience, you can't buy it.
“It was massive for us in that nearly every player on our team had played in an All-Ireland before. They knew about the distractions that go with the occasion and were able to put that one side and just focus on winning the Cup.
“The fans might have enjoyed the build-up, but from a players perspective we didn't really zone in on it all. Having that experience was huge.”
As reigning League and All-Ireland champions, Galway will have a bit of on X on their backs in 2018, but Whelan doesn’t think that challenge will faze them.
“It's a new experience for us, but I don't think it'll be anything different. Come late December and January, the Cup will be put away and things will be back to normal with a fresh start.
“I think every position will be up for grabs again. I think Micheal (Donoghue) will draft in a few players from the Galway U-21 team and that will create competition for places.
“The League is on early this year and you can already feel it coming around, It's less that six weeks away now. We didn't achieve promotion last year and that's the one area we're really looking at next year, we want to come up (from Division 1B).”