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‘Some of the scores he’s got, you wouldn’t get them in a video game’ – Former Clare star Colm Galvin on Tony Kelly’s genius


Tony Kelly of Clare is tackled by Diarmaid Byrnes of Limerick during their recent Munster SHC clash

Tony Kelly of Clare is tackled by Diarmaid Byrnes of Limerick during their recent Munster SHC clash

Tony Kelly of Clare is tackled by Diarmaid Byrnes of Limerick during their recent Munster SHC clash

Were it not for a barrage of injuries, Colm Galvin would be leading Clare's charge on a first Munster SHC title since 1998 against Limerick next month.

Galvin was only fresh on the scene when lighting up the summer of 2013 as Clare landed a fourth All-Ireland SHC title and he had been one of the finest players of the current Banner crop before various setbacks – including the excruciating osteitis pubis – started to break him down.

The mind was more than willing, but the body simply wasn't able for the rigours of inter-county hurling any more with the All-Star midfielder forced to call time earlier this year at just 29.

"I still loved going to training and having the bit of craic with the lads, it's great to have that routine of going to the gym in the morning and going to work and going to training in the evening, but it was hard," Galvin told ourgame.ie

"You're training so hard, you want your body to be right, you want to be fit and next thing your hamstring goes. It is so frustrating because you're trying your best to get back and you want to do the training and be as fit as you can and as good as you can.

"But then you're breaking down and you're missing a week or two here and there and you're just falling behind. At that level, if you're not at 100 per cent then you're wasting your time.

"If you're just operating at 80 per cent, it's just a no-go so I just called a decision on it because my hamstring went twice in about three weeks and I'd just had enough. Mentally it was draining, I wanted to do it but it just wasn't working."

The Clonlara ace recalls various training sessions where a cloud of anxiety hung over him as he feared what might happen next.

"I've gone to training and I can just feel my body getting sore, especially my groin but my hamstring as well. Any sort of tightness I was kind of going 'Oh s*** is this going to go again? So you always have that little bit of fear alright, especially when you get a bit older.

"When I was younger, I didn't give a care in the world, I didn't even do a warm-up I'd say. Now I find myself having to do a lot of stretching with bands and stuff even before I go through training."

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Going to Clare games has been difficult to come to terms with but having his younger brother Ian involved as Brian Lohan's squad go from strength to strength has certainly helped to soften the blow.

Clare went unbeaten as they topped the round-robin stages of Munster with three victories and a draw and Galvin is keen to compliment Lohan's skills as both a motivator and a coach as their revival continues.

"He's a man of very few words but when you get the look, you get the look and you know to pull up your socks. He doesn't even have to say it really, it's just the way he is, but when he does talk lads totally buy into it and listen which is huge for a team," he said.

"Coming in from where he did the first year, you can't work magic straight away so it's going to take a couple of years. It's going to take a lot of training sessions until you realise where players' best positions are. It's taken a bit of time, but the fruits seem to be coming now."

"He lets lads enjoy the game a bit more and doesn't put restrictions on the way they play," Galvin added.

"As you can see, it's fluid hurling and there's no real game plan to it, it's just 'get the ball to a good delivery zone and give the forwards the best chance that they have'.

"It's great for a players' mind set going into a game that you don't have to be really worried about a game plan. There are a few things that they're trying to work on, but it's more about bringing a flow of hurling.

"They're playing it as they see it which is really refreshing and it'd be great for any set-up to have."

Galvin had no worries about Peter Duggan and Shane O'Donnell returning from long lay-offs – "even if they had five years off, I wouldn't have any worry about them anyway" – while the latter's move to half-forward "has really sparked a new lease of life into Clare".

Another in sublime form is former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly and having had an almost telepathic relationship on the pitch with the Ballyea wizard, Galvin marvels at his "hurling brain" and the ability to land "outrageous scores".

"It's his hurling brain (that sets him apart) because he's probably able to see things before other people can," he said. "He's able to read where the ball is going to go which is probably one of the biggest assets you can have in the game.

"So he's going to have an extra yard or two on a defender. Some of the scores he's got in the last few years, you wouldn't get them in a video game."

As for the Munster decider against a four-in-a-row chasing Limerick on June 5, Galvin expects a "very close game". How Lohan would love to have his mastery to help tip the balance in their favour.

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