Monday 20 May 2019

Conlon: We have to bring a bit of bite against Tipp

Clare star raring to go ahead of trip to Thurles

John Conlon. Photo: Sportsfile
John Conlon. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It a stick to beat Clare with that they haven't made it back to Croke Park in five years or lifted Munster SHC honours since 1998 but John Conlon insists "it's not for the want of trying".

Few would have predicted after the Banner's All-Ireland success in 2013 that they wouldn't have made it back to GAA HQ since given their trio of All-Ireland U-21 titles (2012-2014), but summer success has evaded them.

Conlon - who is in sensational scoring form in their Munster campaign and was recognised as PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May yesterday - acknowledges that the bar was set at a high level having claimed Liam MacCarthy with a predominantly young team.

That doesn't detract from the fact that their breakthrough success has not been built upon, however, and he outlines how nothing has been left to chance in an effort to turn things around.

"Every year we set the target of winning Munster and the All-Ireland and that's no different this year and that's no different to any of the other teams," the powerful Clonlara attacker said.

"We know that we probably haven't performed to the level that we probably want to over the last number of years. It's not for the want of trying and not really wanting to succeed but we are in a good place this year.

"I'm 29 and the oldest on the team. There's only two or three of us up on 29, 30 so it is time for us to stand up, we'll give it our best. Every October and November we come in and every county trains as hard. It's just trying to get it to click at the right time,

"I remember saying to Colm Galvin after we beat Laois in the Qualifiers (2013), 'There are only four or five games until the All-Ireland now.' And he looked at me, saying, 'Are you for real? Don't be dreaming.' We just got on a roll.

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"And I remember walking down the Hogan Stand after we lifted the cup and he just turned around to me, I said it to him. And he just started laughing and said: 'What are you on about?'"

Clonlara clubmate Darach Honan stepped away from Banner fold last year at 27, citing training workload for his early retirement but Conlon rubbished talk of them being "flogged" under Davy Fitzgerald.

"That was just more of people's perception that we were flogged. We trained hard, but no different to what we are doing at the moment and any other county is doing," the St Aidan's primary school teacher said.

He welcomes the "good distraction" of building his own house to take his mind off hurling and doesn't subscribe to the "myth" that the new provincial round-robin campaigns are too demanding.

"If you're going through the right protocols and look after yourselves, then there's no problem in you playing those amount of games," he said.

"It's a fantastic set-up. It's very exciting for players. We lost to Cork and literally two hours after getting the meal we had a meeting to see how we would prepare for Waterford and you're totally switched off from Cork.

"It's better for a player as well because mentally if you do badly one week, you can try and improve for next week."

Clare lost to Cork before bouncing back to defeat a depleted Waterford side and Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor's men make the trip to Semple Stadium on Sunday to face a Tipperary side also fighting for their lives.

Having watched Tipp at close quarters last Sunday in the nearby Gaelic Grounds, Conlon knows exactly what to expect from Michael Ryan's side and predicts a "massive" battle.

"This is a massive game for us, it's there within us and everyone seems to be playing well this year and seem to be playing a nice brand and style," he said.

"We've seen for the past few years the great Tipp team that they are. Never write Tipp off - they were within a puck of the ball from winning the All-Ireland last year and every time we go out and play them there is a massive rivalry. Tipp are coming off a big high of coming back in the last two games so we have to bring a bite this weekend."

Irish Independent

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