Conlon hopes U-21 success can help spur rejuvenated Clare to glory
JOHN CONLON'S stock is rising fast. Just a few months on from a man-of-the-match display that helped secure the U-21 All-Ireland title for Clare, much is expected of the Clonlara man this year.
He's part of a rejuvenated Clare squad under Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin that includes nine of last year's triumphant U-21 side and while that success was celebrated with vigour in the Banner county, Conlon wasn't letting the victory go to his head.
"They might be clapping you on the back one day and then giving out about you the next so you have to keep your feet on the ground and train hard.
"Everyone is doing the six nights a week and once you do that 100pc you know that you'll be right for the big days. Confidence is great because it gives you an added incentive to play better. That (confidence) seems to be there at the moment so hopefully we can go on and get in the team and do well in Clare this year in the Championship and get out of Division 2."
After a winter of discontent in the Clare camp, Conlon believes the county side have turned a corner since the new management regime was put in place.
"The confidence is back in the panel. Everyone seems to be happy and that's the main thing. There's no point in playing hurling when you are not happy in the set-up and it seems to be good.
"He (Sparrow) brought in Fiach O'Loughlin and his physical training is fabulous and everyone seems to be happy."
With management in Clare keen to stress that last year's U-21 All-Ireland win won't automatically translate to senior success, Conlon called on the county's supporters to give the new faces time to bed into the side.
"I hope they do give lads time. Some lads will obviously make the step up faster, others won't. We'll try our best and as long as we train hard and do everything 100pc, that's all we can do. Hopefully we can do well. The confidence is there, we have won stuff and lads are brimming with confidence, so hopefully we can make it."
Conlon will also be an integral part of NUI Galway's attempt to win the Fitzgibbon Cup this term for the first time since 1980. The second-year Arts student will get his first taste of Fitzgibbon action in the coming weeks with both the semi-finals and final to be hosted by NUIG on the weekend of March 5/6.
"The Fitzgibbon is a fantastic competition. I'm sure all the (county) managers will be looking at it and if we can achieve in it, play well, then we can make the county team," he said. "We want to win the Fitzgibbon as well because we haven't won it in a long time."