Conlon buoyed by Lohan's positive start as Clare manager
By John Harrington
Clare hurler John Conlon says the mood in the Banner camp is positive since training began under newly appointed manager, Brian Lohan, two weeks ago.
Conlon admits the delay in appointing a manager was “frustrating” for the Clare players, but they’ve been impressed by the impact Lohan has already made since taking charge.
“Yeah, very good,” said Conlon, who is part of the PwC Hurling All-Stars tour to Abu Dhabi.
“They're a great management team. Brian has done so much for Clare hurling as a player and has a good record as a manager with UL, winning the Fitzgibbon. Yeah, you'd have massive time and respect for what he's done for Clare hurling.
“The minute he walked in...I wouldn't have met Brian much on a personal level...but, yeah, the last two weeks have been very enjoyable.
“We've done a lot of hurling and played a lot of games against one another. There's a big panel in at the moment and it's good to see a lot of lads back playing that maybe had taken breaks for the last few years.
"It's positive at the moment. Like, in fairness to Brian, the team he has brought in around him is very good so far, and they are all well respected hurling men.
“He brought in Keith Carr, strength and conditioning, and he’s had a good record with various teams, Galway footballers and Westmeath, so he seems very good since he came in. Things are very bright since we started training back two weeks ago.”
Conlon is looking forward to getting a good pre-season under his belt after a 2019 campaign hampered by injury.
He revealed yesterday that his injury problems began when he tore his posterior cruciate ligament in the drawn 2018 All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Galway and still lined out for the replay regardless.
"It was partially torn. I shouldn’t have played that match. It was silly, to be honest,” admitted Conlon.
“We didn’t get a lot of ball I suppose inside but yeah, there wasn’t…it was just stupid of me, the same level of movement wasn’t there.
“I remember training on the Friday night, trying to make a run out after someone running up the field and I said, ‘What are you doing playing this game for?’, but I suppose adrenalin and everything kicks in. you just want to get there but it was frustrating at the time.”
Conlon wasn’t able to train fully again after that All-Ireland semi-final replay until January of this year.
A few weeks after his return he suffered another serious set-back when he tore his ankle ligaments in an Allianz Hurling League match against Wexford in February.
He made it back in time for the Championship, but without a proper pre-season or League campaign under his belt felt he was always playing catch-up in terms of his fitness.
“I knew in my own mind I wasn’t as fit as I wanted to be so I was nearly training six/seven nights a week. Every night I was off I was probably going to the field and with that, everything else as you get older tightens up then as well.
“Even my wrists were coming at me, I was barely able to hold a hurley. It was just different things. It seemed to be a snowball effect into each other.
“I was fine going back into the Championship but when you miss the League games near the end, that bit of confidence isn’t as good and you kind of push yourself in training and playing the matches aren’t the same really to know how well you’re going and it was frustrating in the Championship. We didn’t go that well as well and it had a snowball effect at the time.”
Clare won their first match of the Munster Championship against Waterford but then fell to heavy defeats to Tipperary and Limerick.
They finished on a high by beating Cork, but that wasn’t enough to secure qualification for the knock-out stages of the Championship.
“It was very disappointing,” says Conlon. “I suppose we went in with high hopes and the management put a lot of responsibility on us to perform again after having a good year the year before and re-establishing ourselves as one of the top counties that year.
“I suppose we had a good win against Waterford the first day but then two big hammerings and that dented a lot of lads' confidence. At least we came out the last day and showed what we're capable of against Cork and that bodes well hopefully going forward.
“I know as management and as players the Tipp game kind of ran away from us and the Limerick game we just didn't show up, they just totally blew us off the field. We got things wrong tactically and we got things wrong as players and management, we'd all admit that.
“I suppose we knuckled down for the Cork game and we got things right. But, yeah, it is frustrating. That was the talk around the whole county, that why can't you (always) perform like that.
“It's just trying to bringing it out on a consistent basis that we brought it out in 2018.
“Munster is just a minefield and next year it will be a bigger minefield with all the management changes so everyone should be back at it again.”