O'Connor predicts 'big year' for Banner county hurlers
By John Harrington
Jamesie O’Connor believes Clare hurling team joint-managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor might be viewing the 2019 Championship as the now or never moment of their tenure.
Last year’s All-Ireland semi-final appearance represented progress, but if their third season in charge doesn’t end with winning the Liam MacCarthy Cup, O’Connor is not sure if they’ll hang around for a fourth one.
“Listen, they both have pressurised jobs, there is probably a window for them in their own careers, in that how much do they feel they can give to it and commit to it, and certainly with the panel of players they have, and from last year, they know that if things were to go our way, we are there or thereabouts,” said O’Connor.
“Is it now or never? It is possibly a big year for Clare, but last year was a big year for Clare. At least last year we got the monkey off the back in that we finally got back to Croke Park.
“The lads showed last year as well that this (Croke Park) is a place that traditionally even in my time, Clare tended to play well here. The problem was getting there.
“But, when we did, we tended to embrace it and play well here.
“Listen, if you are on the Clare panel, and you don’t want to be back here - and they are training very hard at the moment - then there is something wrong with you.
“I don’t think that they are far away, but for Donal and Gerry I am not sure what the future holds. This, in their own mind, might be their last year, given their personal circumstances.”
Clare got their 2019 season off to an encouraging start on Sunday by defeating a strong-looking Tipperary selection by 10 points in the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League Final.
Newcomer Diarmuid Ryan caught the eye with a haul of three points from play, and O’Connor hopes his emergence will prove valuable for the Banner county this year.
“If Diarmuid Ryan, Conor’s brother, progresses maybe the way people think he can progress, he has got a lot of the tools, he is still young, he is still learning his trade. If Clare can find maybe two, three four players...
“Rory Hayes is a guy that has a lot of pace, a lot of tools for the modern game. If Clare can find guys like that, guys that can show during the league that they have got the tools to make the team better, and the lads can then see.
“Aron Shanagher will be fully available for the year. Can they find a roll for him? John Conlon, when he moved to the edge of the square, gave Clare a totally different dimension at full forward.
“It's looking for the small percentages that they are going to need to find to win two matches in Munster which isn’t going to be easy.”