Sunday 25 February 2018

Where are they now?

John Callinan
John Callinan

John Callinan (Former Clare hurler)

AT half-time in today's All-Ireland final, John Callinan will be honoured for being one of the best hurlers in the 1980s never to win an All-Ireland medal. It's a very special occasion for the Clarecastle man, in front of a Clare crowd and alongside two former team-mates, Ger Loughnane and Seán Stack.

Callinan's career started in his local club in Clarecastle and developed when he went to St Flannan's, the famous hurling nursery. During his time there he shared a pitch with some of the best hurlers of his generation including Colm Honan, Stack, Loughnane and Joe McKenna. They spent every spare moment hurling, he recalls.

Callinan played for the county all the way up through the underage ranks. He was on the minor team for three years and on the under 21 team while he was still a schoolboy. He made his senior debut in 1972 as a 17-year-old and for the next 15 years was a regular fixture in Clare's starting line-up. During that time the half-forward won two National League titles and two All-Stars but also suffered many agonising final defeats.

"Winning the National League was a big deal at the time," explains Callinan. "Clare hadn't won one since 1945 and hadn't featured at the business end for a while. We were in Munster finals then as well, they were exciting times. We were reasonably successful but we weren't making the breakthrough at Munster level and there was no back door."

Yet despite the defeats Callinan's dedication to hurling never wavered. He loved the game so he took the good days with the bad, only retiring when his body wasn't able to keep going. In the early 1980s, he was a founding member and chairman of the first Gaelic Players' Association.

Club hurling was also hugely important to Callinan. He won county titles in 1986 and 1987 with Clarecastle and is now the treasurer of the club.

He's a solicitor by profession based in Ennis and is hoping the Liam MacCarthy will be heading back to the Banner but finds the game hard to call.

"I think Clare can win it but whether they will or not I'm not sure. With Davy's tactics you can't predict what is going to happen. They have the ability but you have two improving teams so it is very difficult to call."

Sunday Independent

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