O'Donovan hoping long Banner road can end in silverware
Winning was a familiar feeling for Domhnall O'Donovan: having helped catapult Clonlara from the intermediate ranks to a Clare SHC title in successive years (2007/08), and enjoyed All-Ireland under 21 success with the Banner a year later and Fitzgibbon Cup glory the following spring, the hurling world was at his feet.
"It was four years of always a big win somewhere" and with the likes of Darach Honan, John Conlon, Colm Galvin and the O'Connell brothers, Nicky and Cathal ('Tots') aboard, more silverware was sure to arrive. Clonlara were the "coming team", improving at a rate of knots, and it looked as if the throne was theirs for the foreseeable future.
Hurling works in mysterious ways, however, and after reaching the 2009 decider, it would take another six years before they got there again. Sixmilebridge put them to the sword last year but today O'Donovan will be in Cusack Park vying to get his hands on the Canon Hamilton Cup for a second time.
A business analyst for IT solutions with Kerry Group in Naas, work demands and the commute from his Dublin base meant commitment to Davy Fitzgerald's Clare squad was going to be an issue, despite his manager's co-operation, so he took a step back and threw his lot in with Damien Power's Clonlara.
"I just knew early in the year how much commitment I'd have to give to work with travel, and that was the main driver in not going back with Clare, Davy left the door open for me.
"Eventually I said something had to change, I either needed to change my role or get a role somewhere near home or basically not play hurling with Clare," he says.
"I've done a few years now where I haven't been at the level that I should've been when I was doing all this travel up and down the road, getting out of a car and being on the pitch five minutes later. You're not doing yourself justice and it's mentally frustrating to know you can be better than you're showing. Something had to change."
When Clare faced Waterford in the Munster championship, O'Donovan couldn't have been much further from Semple Stadium. Instead of being in the thick of the action, the 28-year-old was sitting nervously on a plane to India scouring the WiFi to get tuned in to Clare FM - he didn't want to miss a puck. Not being involved was "a very difficult place to be".
"I went to every other game. You get the odd person coming up to you, some lads might say 'They're doing great, do you miss it?' and then when Clare might have lost they'd say 'You should've been out there'. I didn't really listen to that," the 2013 All-Ireland winner says.
"But you'd love to be out there yourself, you get to that part of the season, every kind of thought goes through your head and you're thinking 'If I'd made that extra effort or tried harder, could I have been out there?'. But I'm pretty happy in my decision that there's not much more that I could have done."
O'Donovan trained a handful of times in the capital between St Brigid's, Ballyboden St Enda's and St Sylvesters but enjoys the trip home every Thursday. While still feeling he'd have something to offer new Clare managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor - should the call come and his circumstances change - club life was a bit of culture shock but he eventually settled into it.
"I didn't really know what to do with my time," he says. "I'd be home from work at a certain time and think 'Okay what do normal people do now?'. I didn't bother picking up any other hobby, I just stayed doing what I love doing.
"I'd just hang out with my friends a bit more and socialise with my friends. I think my girlfriend might have appreciated the extra bit of time I was able to afford her too."
He will line out alongside his twin brother Cormac today as Clonlara take on Tony Kelly's Ballyea, and while Domhnall is often remembered for his injury-time leveller from corner-back in the 2013 All-Ireland final, that doesn't carry too much weight in the Clonlara dressing-room, with Cormac hitting the winner in the 2009 under 21 decider, while Conlon fired over the match-winner for NUIG in the 2010 Fitzgibbon finale.
The identical twin card, while "a handy get out of jail free option" has got the O'Donovans in trouble before, with Cormac posting a picture on Twitter in 2014 at the Darts in London's O2 Arena reading: "Domhnall O'Donovan on the piss. . . Don't tell Davy" but this evening they'll hope to be seeing double in a different way with a second Clare crown.
Antrim SFC Final
Corrigan Park: Cargin v St Gall's, 3.0.
Armagh SFC Final
Athletic Grounds: Cullyhanna v Maghery, 4.0.
Cavan SFC Final replay
Breffni Park: Castlerahan v Ramor United, 4.0.
Cork SFC Final
Páirc Uí Rinn: Ballincollig v Carbery Rangers, 3.45.
Derry SFC Final
Celtic Park: Loup v Slaughtneil, 3.45.
Donegal SFC Final
MacCumhaill Park: Glenswilly v Kilcar, 4.0.
Kerry SFC Final
Fitzgerald Stadium: Dr Crokes v Kenmare District, 3.30.
Kildare SFC Final
Newbridge: Moorefield v Sarsfields, 3.30.
Laois SFC Final
O'Moore Park: Portlaoise v Stradbally, 3.30.
Longford SFC Final
Glennon Bros Pearse Park: Abbeylara v Mullinalaghta, 4.0.
Offaly SFC Final
O'Connor Park: Ferbane v Rhode, 3.0.
Tyrone SFC Final replay
Healy Park: Coalisland v Killyclogher, 3.30.
Ulster Club SFC - First Round
Clones: Scotstown (Monaghan) v Kilcoo (Down), 3.30.
Carlow SHC Final
Netwatch Cullen Park: Mount Leinster Rangers v St Mullins, 3.45.
Clare SHC Final
Cusack Park: Ballyea v Clonlara, TBC.
Galway SHC Final
Pearse Stadium: Gort v St Thomas', 3.30.
London SHC Final
Greenford: Robert Emmetts v St Gabriels, TBC.
Roscommon SHC Final
Athleague: Four Roads v Oran, 3.30.
Tipperary SHC Final
Semple Stadium: Kildangan v Thurles Sarsfields, 3.30.
Wexford SHC Final
Innovate Wexford Park: Cloughbawn v Oulart-The Ballagh, 3.30.
Wicklow SHC Final
Aughrim: Bray Emmets v Carnew Emmets, 3.15.
Dublin SHC Semi-Finals
Parnell Park: Kilmacud Crokes v O'Tooles, 2.15;
Parnell Park: Cuala v Lucan Sarsfields, 4.0.
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