*Patrick O’Connor leads the Clare team onto Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Martin Connolly
AFTER an eleven year career at senior level with Clare, Patrick O’Connor this week called time on his inter county hurling career.
O’Connor’s father Pat and his uncles Enda and Mike gave many years of service to the club and also to Clare with whom they won National League honours in the mid seventies. Patrick himself claimed a National League medal in 2016.
While he won’t be part of the Clare squad in the coming seasons, he plans to be very much involved with his beloved club, Tubber.
“Retirement age in Tubber is very high and I could have another ten years to retirement there”, he told The Clare Echo this week. “There has always been excellent role models in my club. Justin McMahon and Clive Earley are still soldiering. I do feel that I have a good number of years to go with them and I want my club to see the best of what I have left”, he added.
O’Connor’s first game at senior inter county level was in the first round of the Allianz National Hurling League in 2011 against Limerick. “I am hugely indebted to Ger O’Loughlin for giving me my start”, Patrick recalled. O’Loughlin was the first senior manager he played under, with Davy Fitzgerald, Donal Moloney, Gerry O’Connor and Brian Lohan also in charge during his time in the saffron and blue. He informed Lohan of his decision to retire from inter-county hurling in recent weeks.
Having played minor with Clare in 2009, O’Connor was drafted in to the under 21 panel along with Conor McGrath. Clare went on to win the county’s first ever Munster under 21 title, beating Waterford in Dungarvan in the final, the John Minogue managed side later claimed the All-Ireland championship beating Kilkenny in the decider.
In his final year at U21, the Gort Community School past pupil captained Clare to Munster and All-Ireland glory, “Tony Kelly, and Colm Galvin were coming on the scene at that time,” he pointed out.
That led the way to a never to be forgotten All-Ireland senior title success in 2013 where Patrick lined out at wing back. “We were nearly winning every competition then but that doesn’t always last”, he noted.
Although he missed all of this year’s inter-county campaign which saw Clare reach an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 2018, O’Connor felt he was fortunate when it came to injuries. “Ultimately I was very lucky with injuries and I am happy to be injury free again at this time”.
Being an inter-county hurler or footballer in the modern day brings with it a great level of sacrifice. “There is a massive commitment required. Having stepped away I look now and the commitment levels look to have gone up another couple of levels. There are fantastic athletes taking to the field now”.
“Where I am from, there is only one show in town and that’s hurling,” the thirty one year old commented. His love for the game was of course influenced by his family but also the Clare team of the 1990s. “To be meeting fellas like Brian Lohan and Seanie McMahon, they were superstars, they were excellent role models”.
He is eager to give a big commitment to his club now. “There is a really nice young team coming along and I would love to be at the field a few nights a week helping them along. I see that as a duty”.
As for Clare he believes that “they are in excellent hands. There is a brilliant set up there and Brian (Lohan) is an excellent manager. He makes decisions on what is best for Clare hurling. He is held in huge respect and people have huge time for him. He is a legend of the game”.
Asked for a highlight from his time involved he said “winning the All-Ireland in 2013 was a huge one while being captain was beyond my wildest dreams. I loved it and I am indebted to Donal (Moloney) and Gerry (O’Connor) for giving me the honour”.