Of all the Clare players lining out in Croke Park yesterday, John Conlon has tasted more success there than them all.
Along with Donal Tuohy, he was part of the side that won the county’s first ever All-Ireland U21 title in 2009. Four years later, he was at wing-forward as Clare secured their fourth senior All-Ireland championship with Tuohy on the sideline. Cian Dillon was in action on both occasions but has yet to significantly feature this year, marking Conlon out as the most successful of the current crop when it comes to playing at GAA HQ.
“We never gave up but neither did Galway. It was fantastic stuff, it was exhilarating even at the end there myself and James Skehill were in around the square with a minute to go and we said no one deserved to lose this and thankfully Jason got that great score at the end and it had similarities to Domhnall’s score and lads working it up the field, it just shows the subs that came on it was David Fitzgerald who went up the field just to have that composure and leadership from him to go on and do that with the last puck of the ball meant a lot and hopefully will give us a big push for next week,” John told members of the media after Saturday’s drawn All-Ireland semi-final.
Although they trailed by nine points as the opening quarter concluded, Clare were not overly bothered and Conlon reveals that it was something they touched upon in preparation for the game.
“Things didn’t look good but we had said during the week that it could happen, Galway are that good they blew us off the field for the first fifteen or twenty minutes but we said that the mistakes might occur and we were fairly sloppy, maybe we were a bit nervous or anxious about being in Croke Park but we got composed, Tony got moved to midfield and he made a big difference he drew them out and got a few great scores when we needed them and got us on the scoreboard, things started to tick then and coming into half-time we were only four points down.
“We knew at half-time that we were well in the game and we’d have our purple patch and we drove on when it mattered”.
Prior to the contest there was a lot of interest on the Clonlara man’s duel with Daithí Burke. According to Conlon, “It’s a battle every week, I had Liam Ryan against Wexford and that was a big battle, it was no different with Daithi, he’s a fantastic hurler and a fantastic full back, I relished it because that’s what you want, you want to be up against the best and pushing yourself against the best, he’s a fantastic player and I’m looking forward to it again next week and I’m sure he is too”.
While there were reports of an ankle injury affecting the Turloughmore defender, John didn’t think there was much holding his counterpart back. “I didn’t feel it anyway because he was well up beside me, he’s a tough buck so there’s no fear in him and he’ll be fine for next week and we’ll do battle”.
*Photograph: Martin Connolly