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Sunday 20 April 2014

McInerney: We're no one-hit wonders

'Accidental' full-back aiming to help Clare prove triumph was no fluke

Paul Durcan and David McInerney at the launch of the GA A’ s season ticket for 2014 at Croke Park yesterday

BABY-FACED Clare full-back David McInerney (20) insists that all the hysteria surrounding their success – not to mention their 'boyband' profile – will not see them losing the run of themselves because they are determined to prove that they are not one-hit wonders.

"The fact that we're so young, people might think we'll get carried away," said McInerney, who not only won All-Ireland senior and U-21 medals this season, but an All Star and the U-21 Hurler of the Year award.

"This group of lads are a small bit different – we always rise on the big days. We really need to push on and up it a bit more now – otherwise it'll be seen as a fluke year and none of us want that.

"We want to prove that's not the case and give it our best again. Our supporters won't be getting too carried away either because, in the '90s, Clare had an excellent team that won two All-Irelands, yet some of our supporters would have been bitterly disappointed that they lost in other years – like 1998."

McInerney, a student teacher at NUI Maynooth, has more reasons than most to reference the '90s as his father Jim was part of their breakthrough heroes in '95 and has helped to revamp their underage structures recently.

"I actually don't have much of a memory of '95 and '97," he confessed. "In fairness to my dad, he'll talk to you when you need it and he knows when to stay away from you.

MASSIVE

"But he's definitely had a massive influence on my hurling. It was never really forced on me, it has always been an enjoyment."

What was particularly remarkable about McInerney is that he describes himself as an "accidental" full-back – he played full-forward for his club, Tulla, this year.

When Clare's minors lost an All-Ireland final to Kilkenny four years ago, McInerney made an appearance off the bench as a half-forward.

"I was very small when I was minor and a bit shy and there was a lot of talent in the forwards at the time," he explained. "As I got older, I got a bit bigger and stronger. We were short a few backs in the U-21s, which is where I got my chance, but it was kind of an accident.

"Until two years ago, I had never played full-back. We (the county U-21s) were playing a challenge against the Clare seniors and our full-back never turned up and they just threw me in and I've been stuck there since.

"You just figure it out yourself, playing challenge matches and stuff. You have good days and bad days and you just have to cop on to things as quickly as you can.

"Donal Maloney and Gerry O'Connor (Clare's U-21 management) would give you tips and my father would throw me the odd tip too. I think I was just suited to it at the time."

McInerney is certainly not the clichéd enforcer-style full-back – he is of the quick, skilful variety who prefers to mark his man from the shoulder or out in front.

"The speed of hurling has gone up so much and if you let the likes of Patrick Horgan out in front of you, you're wasting your time," he reasoned. "You won't be able to dispossess them or keep up with them, whereas if you're on their shoulder or out in front, you have some chance of upsetting them or winning the ball yourself. The game has definitely developed that way."

He's also not afraid to sally upfield, even though this occasionally backfires. "In the (All-Ireland final) replay I made one solo up the field and got dispossessed. But sometimes it's not bad to do that because it gives the crowd a boost and gives your defence a chance to relax and get their breath back."

McInernery certainly showed unflappable presence and remarkable maturity in his first summer as a county senior, confessing that the only things that frighten him are "heights and rollercoasters – stuff like that".

ROLLERCOASTER

He and Clare have certainly just stepped off a sporting rollercoaster which looks like it could pick up even more speed in the coming year.

Having won the last two All-Ireland U-21 titles, the likes of Paul Flanagan, Alan O'Neill and Cathal O'Connell are expected to push hard next to break into the Banner starters.

For now, their young, 'accidental' full-back, whose boyhood hero was Seanie McMahon, is content to bask in the glow of some extraordinary memories, including last weekend's All Stars.

"Coming in on the red carpet, it seemed like Hollywood stuff and then we met footballers and hurlers that we'd always have looked up to!" he laughed. "It was only a few years ago that we were 15 and 16 and trying to replicate these lads out on the field."

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