*Clare’s Tony Kelly. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
TONY KELLY WILL CONTINUE as Clare senior hurling captain for 2023.
Clare manager Brian Lohan has confirmed that the Ballyea hurler will enter his second year as the county captain.
Kelly’s form during Lohan’s tenure has been off the charts with the secondary school teacher collecting three of his four All Star awards in this period.
Last year, he finished the championship with a personal tally of 1-54 with some scintillating displays central to him picking up his fourth All Star. An incredible sideline cut from Kelly saw Clare bring the Munster final to extra time where John Kiely’s Limerick just had the edge, winning 1-29 0-29.
As Clare begin their 2023 Allianz National Hurling League campaign this Sunday at home to Westmeath, Tony’s role as captain has been confirmed.
He succeeded Clonlara’s John Conlon as skipper last season. Conlon had been captain for the first two years of Lohan’s reign.
A leadership role has been natural for Tony since he made his championship debut for the Clare senior hurlers with a dramatic win over the Anthony Daly managed Dublin in Cusack Park.
One year later he would be named Hurler of the Year as Clare were crowned All-Ireland champions. In 2016, he was appointed joint captain alongside Crusheen’s Cian Dillon for what was Davy Fitzgerald’s final campaign as Clare manager.
When Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor appointed Tubber’s Patrick O’Connor as captain in 2017, they made Kelly vice captain. The joint managers had previously picked Tony as captain of the Clare minors in 2011, a year in which they won the Munster championship while he held the same role in 2014 this time at U21 level when provincial and national honours were secured by the Banner County.
Panellists both young and old are in awe of the ability and leadership of Kelly with midfielder Cathal Malone stating last year, “He’s just incredible, he really drives the standard both in training and in matches. He works incredibly hard as well and he’s always looking to improve and he’s always driving us on to improve”.