Jonathan Clancy is 27, established in his professional life as a fully qualified accountant working with Eamon Keane & Co in Ennis and a hurler of note since he joined the Clare senior panel since 2005.
His hurling career has been the most turbulent journey though, as he has seen a baton of managers come in.
“Anthony Daly, Tony Considine, Mike McNamara, Ger O’Loughlin and now Davy — five managers. Big changes, especially in the way we prepare, that has evolved over the years,” he said.
The biggest change of all though, from Clancy’s own point of view has been negative. Under the previous four managers the flying Clarecastle attacker was played in a variety of positions from midfield forward and never gave less than his best. Under Davy Fitzgerald he has become a bit-part player, one of those glued to the bench during games, his only active service coming in training matches.
It happens. No fault anywhere, neither on Clancy’s part, nor on Davy’s, who is doing what he believes is best for this panel and for Clare.
It just happens that as Clancy was reaching his peak along came not one generation of ultra-talented youngsters in Clare — winning an All-Ireland U21 in 2009 — but two, a second U21 title won last year and the next group are hot favourites to pick up a third in two weeks’ time.
So how do you handle that? How do you cope? Sulk. Drag your arse in training. Go to the manager to complain. Go to the media to sow dissent?
Some players might go down that route, but not Clancy.
“Isn’t it great? Isn’t this what you train for, what you aspire to since the time you started, to be involved in an All-Ireland final?
“Going up to the last few All-Irelands you’d be jealous of the lads out there. You want to experience that for yourself so it’s great to be there now.”
But what about Jonathan Clancy, you press, what’s it like for you coming down from being a starter as an U21 to being a support player in your peak years?
“You always want to be starting, but sure it’s great to be involved, nice to be where we are now. You have years like this but some years you mightn’t be training at this time of year — the way it goes.
“In fairness there are good lads around the panel as well. The training is good. The craic is good, good banter among all the lads. It’s not hard to come in to training when you have all that. It’s a joy to be around it, to be honest, I wouldn’t be thinking of it that way.”
He hasn’t changed the way he trains or the way he operates either. Despite being one of the two longest-serving players on the panel (Fergal Lynch is the other), he neither looks nor tries to act as a father-figure to the youngsters.
“I wouldn’t see myself as that, no. I wouldn’t really be the most vocal person but talking to Podge [Collins, centre-forward] and a few more of them... some of these lads don’t need anyone [telling them what to do]. When I first came into the dressing room, looking around you Brian Lohan was there, Frank, Davy himself was still playing. Now you look around and it’s all U21s. You don’t feel it passing though, it only feels like the other day I first came into the dressing room myself [rueful little laugh]. I suppose that’s how it happens. It’s almost a completely new team.”
Unfortunately for Clancy, it’s also a team in which he has yet to feature this championship season. Doesn’t mean, however, that he’s not playing his part.
He is, in training, where he and all the others on the extended panel go full on in every session, not just in the perpetual hope of catching the eye of the selectors, late and all in the day as this may be, but also for the benefit of those who are starting.
“How do you gauge yourself otherwise? You could be flying in training but the fella you’re marking might only be floating around, not too bothered. That’s not going to do anyone any service.
“That’s what it comes down to, if you’re to be properly prepared you need everyone going hammer-and-tongs in training.”
He hasn’t given up all hope of getting a run-out against Cork in Sunday’s All-Ireland final but he is realistic.
“You never know.”
He is still, nevertheless, a story. He’s becoming one of the forgotten men on this Clare panel, is Jonathan Clancy, a casualty of the torrent of new talent coming through.
What he has already given to the cause should not be forgotten, neither should what he continues to give even in these most testing circumstances of all.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved