ACROSS the 2018 championship season you could say that Peter Duggan was an overnight sensation after seven years — all because after joining the Clare senior hurling panel for the first time in 2012 it was 2018 that he finally exploded onto the national scene.
That’s what a haul of 3-76 across eight games to be the championship’s top-scorer did; that’s what three top-scoring performances in Munster, against Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick did; that’s what a combined total of 0-20 over the course of the two All-Ireland semi-finals against Galway did; that’s what his point of the ages in the drawn game against Galway did; that’s what his end of year All-Star award did too.
For the 25-year-old Clooney-Quin star it was a coming of age — a carry over from his heroics in leading his club’s charge to a first county senior final appearance in 74 years; a carry over from lighting up the Fenway Park home of the Boston Red Sox; a carry over from a stellar National League in which he hit 1-48.
Above all, from a man who made his championship debut in Clare’s All-Ireland winning year of 2013 when coming on a sub in the Munster quarter-final win over Waterford and who made his first impression on the championship scoring board when hitting 0-4 in the All-Ireland Qualifier rout of Laois that same year in Cusack Park it was lesson to everyone else in the power of perseverance and practice.
“I try to hit 100 frees a day,” the All Star revealed at the recent launch of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship hosted by Littlewoods. “My whole focus is just to get myself prepared as best I can. I still have the same routine, I try to hit 100 frees a day to make sure when I get the situation in a match, I feel comfortable down over it.
“I’d always be disgusted anytime I’d miss anything. Last year I missed a few easy frees that I shouldn’t. I was sick of getting blocked down. It was fairly obvious it was a problem and that’s why I changed it.
“They were all close in ones and they were blocked down so I changed my routine and I’ve changed my trajectory of those frees and hopefully that won’t happen this year, that’s all I can do about it,” he added.
And for Duggan, it’s all about enjoyment — giving it a lash you could say, with the way in which he threw off the shackles when given his chance last year being one of the biggest standouts of the championship as a whole.
“I was a little bolder last year,” revealed Duggan. Bolder and braver as he moved from the fringes of things in 2017 to centre-stage. All that after he nearly chucked the whole inter-county thing in after a frustrating 2017 — like many of the years that had gone before. “I was close to quitting,” he revealed last year after picking up PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month for August.
“Close close on a few occasions,” he continued. “No reason, other than I was just a bit burnt out during the year, a long year. I wasn’t on the panel for the Limerick game last year, and I just wasn’t going great. I just found it hard to get motivated.
“If we didn’t go so well with Clooney I don’t think I would have gone back. It was just an extra motivation, had the confidence to stay going, and that’s why I stayed going. It could have been every easily not gone back.”
In that sense his electric 2018 was the season that might never have been, with the goal for 2019 being to try and build on it in the hunt for a first piece of championship silverware since he was a frustrated unused sub in the 2013 All-Ireland finals, having seen action in three of the games en route to the decider.
“We are playing hurling for the craic of it, rather than the stress of it,” he said. “If we lose it, we focus on the next game. We are playing hurling for the craic of it, rather than the stress of it. I’m not worried about what someone thinks of me. At the end of the day, the whole point in going out is winning the game. It doesn’t matter if I score one point, or I score 20 points. It’s a team game for a reason.”
Duggan can’t wait for the season to unfold — the unfinished business of 2018 to complete in 2019 every one of a saffron and blue hopes, while the Limerick Institute of Technology student is looking on it game by game.
“This year we didn’t have a great league and we were disappointed with our performance in Waterford,” he said. “It’s not even the fact of losing in Waterford, but it was the fact that we played so poorly. It’s now about rebuilding and making sure that we’ve got a performance.
“Every team has different aspects of their game that they are trying to improve coming into championship. With Limerick going so well last year, and it was the same with us in 2013, once a team wins the All-Ireland, they are the benchmark.
“You find out what was good for them, but at the same time, it doesn’t mean that it would work out for us. We have to find something that works for us. In 2013, it was the sweeper and it worked unbelievably well.
“What are we going to do this year that will give us an advantage? I’m sure every team out there will be looking for that bit extra. It could be anything, formation, or goals. Everyone is trying to find their niche…we haven’t found one yet,” he added.
Hopefully it arrives when Sunday comes in Walsh Park, while then there’s the prospect Tipperary in Cusack Park and beyond that to the Limerick and Cork games.
“As players, we love playing in Cusack Park. When you’ve played there from a young age, you’d be so comfortable,” said Duggan. The Limerick game last year was one of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played. It was my first time playing in a sell-out in Cusack Park. It was class.”
More of the same and it could be a long year.