Clonlara celebrated its own on Tuesday last when their local All-Ireland legends brought the Liam McCarthy Cup among them, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh, who spoke to the leader of the ‘Clonlara Six’ John Conlon.
IT was time to clear his throat – all to say the cúpla focail on behalf of the ‘Clonlara Six’, but also to sing a song. There just had to be a song in honour of the day, the occasion and the crowd that turned out.
In the dressing room a few days before John Conlon followed Brendan Bugler’s tune on the button accordion – one that will surely see the Whitegate man signed up for the Tulla Céilí Band like All-Ireland man Dr Bill Loughnane was before him – with a powerful rendition of My Lovely Rose of Clare.
It was play it again John, but this time as part of a duet with Cathal O’Connell. Little and Large – Clonlara hurling style, and singing style too as ‘Block’ and ‘Tots’ belted out My Lovely Rose of Clare one more time.
It was one of many highlights. The evening Liam McCarthy came home to the village on the banks of the Shannon for the first time having been won with Clonlara men in the van. Five of them on the field, the sixth, who’ll be with them on the field before long, in reserve on Clonlara’s greatest day.
“It was a great experience to bring the cup back,” says Conlon. “Going away Saturday morning there were no All-Ireland senior medals inside in Clonlara – to bring back six in the one day was great for the club and a great honour for myself and the other five lads.
“Bringing the cup in, the cheering and the huge crowd that turned out just showed what we’ve done for Clonlara and you’d feel very honoured. I remember after the match when we were going around the field with the cup on the lap of honour, to see the tears and see what it meant to the Clonlara people and the whole of Clare was special.
“It wasn’t too hard to see the lads from Clonlara – a few of them nearly jumped out onto the field. Just to see the emotion in their faces, that’s why it was great to bring the cup back to the village, to thank that people that helped us all throughout our underage and club careers.
“They’re the ones who helped us and coached us and got us to this level. It was the many hours that they took out of their time to help us. They helped us become better people and top class hurlers,” he adds.
He’s talking about old school principal PJ Fitzpatrick, his own father Pat, Flan Haskett, Tony O’Sullivan, Eddie Horgan, Niall Hogan, Jim Gully, Colm Honan, Sean O’Donovan, Seamus Hogg, Fra Moloney, Tommy Galvin, Kevin Galvin, Patrick Mason, PJ Gully and many more.
“All the different people who would be very strong in the club,” says Conlon, “because these are the people who helped me live my dream.
“We were lucky that when we were growing up we had great role models like Jamesie O’Connor, Davy Fitz, Brian Lohan and the rest of the 1995 team. Hopefully now the children have role models to look up to. That’s the most important thing – that we get every child out playing hurling and keep Clare at the top.
“Clonlara school is great for the development of hurling in the parish. You just look at our school at the moment. We won the Division 1 boys and girls in the schools competition last year. The amount of commitment that goes into the school, every second day, that’s what it’s about,” he adds.
And that’s how All-Irelands are won.