An emotional victory on many different levels for Clare hurling

Like he did last year, Clare co-manager Gerry O’Connor delivered a stirring interview to RTÉ prior to facing Tipperary on Sunday.

This time around there was a different emotion colouring his words.

“I think in the evolution of every team there comes a time when everything is aligned mentally, physically, tactically and emotionally, and we feel as a group that we are perfectly aligned at the minute.

"And we feel that we’re going to give a performance here today that reflects how we feel and how we feel about reflecting the people of Clare. As far as we’re concerned, it’s last chance saloon. It’s a knockout game, as far as we’re concerned.

We probably need to put a bit of context in here as well: there has been a lot of tragedy in Clare over the last couple of weeks across all the sporting divides, the Kilmaley community, the Ennis community and recently the Crusheen community. The county’s a little bit down and we believe and we feel that we’re going to give the county a lift today.

O’Connor was speaking about the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Oisín Cahill in a car crash in April, the drownings of 15-year-olds Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney on May 30 and Clare fanatic Michael Fogarty who died in a collision on the M18 last week.

On a weekend where Evan O’Carroll was lining out to help Laois reach a Leinster SFC final after his father had passed away, the win over Tipperary on Sunday was almost as poignant for an emotional Clare captain Patrick O’Connor, a friend of Fogarty’s.

He felt his pal was looking down on him as he made a vital catch in the closing stages. “It was big but you’re not even thinking that .... you’ve got the ball and you’re up. Like, I’ve done so many times on the lawn, and in matches, it hasn’t come off and your man has got it and it’s gone over your head.

“Maybe someone was looking down on us and I just want to say a quick word to the people of Crusheen because there was an awful tragedy there this week. Michael Fogarty, who was a massive hurling man, a massive supporter of ours, was killed in a car accident.

“He was probably looking down at us today because he was just a massive hurling man.

“He supported us through thick and thin and I spoke to him nearly every day through work. The result is probably tinged with a bit of emotion at the final whistle because of him.”

Swamped

It took some time before O’Connor could make his way off the field as he and others were swamped by well-wishers.

“There’s plenty of days where no one’s asking you for your autograph and you wanted the field to swallow you up.

“We are just delighted we finally got the fruits of our labour, because we’ve worked so hard and we’ve hurted together and we’ve gone back when there mightn’t necessarily have been a massive hunger to go back. But we’ve momentum now and it’s something we haven’t had for a while.”

The Tubber man’s respect for Tipperary remained high afterwards.

In fairness to Tipperary, they’re such men, such resilience up there, it was like beating a brick wall at times. We got one chance and we took it. I suppose that’s a side of our game, that clinical edge that we’ve needed to develop.

The Clare management were kept abreast of what was happening in the Gaelic Grounds between Limerick and Waterford but in the madness of it all the players weren’t, according to O’Connor. The reactions of the Tipperary players at the final whistle signalled they were out but he wasn’t aware they and Waterford were finished for the summer on Sunday.

“That’s the thing with the Munster championship, permutations probably mean nothing. Teams are so even and you could potentially have a couple of teams on three, a couple of teams on four (points). But, look it, to say we came out of this Munster championship is good because it was hell for leather. It examined you in a way we haven’t been examined before.”

In a de facto Munster semi-final this weekend, where a draw won’t guarantee Clare a provincial final place, O’Connor is relying on home advantage to be a motivation as much as a plus. “We want silverware now and we’ve got momentum now, as I said, and we’ll be looking to use every bit of that now for next week. Playing in Cusack Park, regardless of what it means, Cusack Park is our home patch and we’ll defend it next week.”

PaperTalk GAA Podcast: Clare's deliverance but what now for Tipp and Waterford?

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