It was just his second start in two years. But banging over a point in his first play against Offaly settled Darach Honan and allow him revel in the the Cusack Park mid-summer atmosphere.
“The place was absolutely buzzing. I love those days in Cusack Park especially. It really gives you a sense of what you do it all for. The first ball, John Conlon switched it over to my side. It broke in behind and I was happy to get on the scoreboard straight away. I was a bit nervous coming into it. I hadn’t started a game all year so it was important to do well. I’ve only had two starts in two years so I was glad to get off to a good start,” the 6’6, 2009 All-Ireland U/21 winner said.
His only start in 2014 was against Wexford in the All-Ireland qualifier replay defeat. In the interim, Honan says that not wanting to let his club Clonlara down kept him focused.
“The club really was the saving grace. I was kept motivated because even when I was outside the Clare team, I knew that I would have been an important part of the club team. So I was training as hard as ever because I wanted to do well with the club. I wasn’t going to let standards slip just because I wasn’t on the Clare team at the time. So I was as motivated as ever to keep my standards up.”
As Clare powered to their first championship victory in 21 months with relative ease on against Offaly, the biggest cheer of the evening in Cusack Park was saved for the late introduction of Honan’s Clonlara star Colm Galvin who is expected to play a more significant part in this Saturday’s last eight tie against Cork in Thurles.
“We got him on the field for the last seven minutes and listen, It’s great to have him back on the panel.” admitted Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald.
“The hunger in the camp and in the dressing room, it’s there. A lot of the lads won an All-Ireland when they were 20 years of age. I said this after winning the All-ireland - to win three Under 21s and a senior at such a young age, it’s hard to keep motivating players.”
This is Fitzgerald’s fifth championship clash with Jimmy Barry Murphy’s Cork in the last three seasons, with Clare’s sole victory significantly being the All-Ireland Final replay of 2013, having previously failed to beat the Rebels since 1998 when Fitzgerald himself played.
“We’re getting back to where we need to be but we’re still not back right. We’re not back there yet, we’re only starting but if we do we’ll be a match for anyone.”
While the players have been boosted by the timely return of Conor McGrath (injury), Brendan Bugler and Patrick Donnellan (suspension) as well as Galvin, they are not about to let complacency seep back into their play according to playmaker Tony Kelly.
“We know that because Colm’s coming back, we can’t just relax and expect him to do it all so it’s going to have to be a big collective effort this week and up our performance again.”
But Honan is confident that if Clare win, they could cut loose in Croke Park.
“The great thing about this is if we get over the next day, you get into Croke Park. I think that really suits our team and that is somewhere we’d be able to open up and express ourselves. That is the target; get into Croke Park.”
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