Off The Ball: Kelly standard-bearer for Clare's golden crop
Published 13/11/2013 | 01:00
Tony Kelly's triple award night at the All Stars really summed up Clare's amazing 2013. It wasn't just a year that reaped an unexpected All-Ireland but one in which Clare hurling was redefined.
The great Clare team of the 1990s set a pattern for hurling in the county for a generation. It was an era built around once-in-a-lifetime backs like Brian Lohan and Seanie McMahon. Of the forwards, only Jamesie O'Connor was truly in that class above.
Now Clare have all the class players. Kelly's performance against Limerick made us Clare fans jump out of our seats. The buzz in the ground whenever he gets the ball is palpable. He's the country's most exciting player and we can't believe he's ours.
And it's not just Kelly, it's the entire generation that have come through. Podge Collins, brilliant all year, made the country gasp with his over-the-shoulder point in the first All-Ireland final.
There's plenty more to come too, after two consecutive All-Ireland U-21 titles – a new wave of hurlers, who all play with a style, confidence and skill that suddenly defines Clare hurling.