*Clare senior hurling manager, Brian Lohan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
BRIAN LOHAN is in the process of finalising his Clare senior hurling squad for next year with a number of changes in personnel to his panel.
Preparations are beginning for the 2023 inter-county season with Clare’s senior hurlers hopeful of building on this year’s campaign which saw them contest the Munster Final, losing to Limerick after extra time while Brian Cody’s last victory as Kilkenny manager came at the expense of the Banner County in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Since that twelve point in July, Lohan and selector Ken Ralph scoured the county in attempts to strengthen up the panel for 2023. They attended all rounds of the Clare SHC, travelling to as many games as possible while they also were actively scouting from the Clare IHC.
Among the standout performers to catch their eye was Clooney/Quin’s John Conneally. He was corner back for the Clare U20 hurlers this year but really stood out in the Clare SHC where he was centre back and one of the real leaders as Tommy Corbett’s decision to back the young guns saw the club reach the quarter-finals only to be defeated by eventual champions Ballyea.
Fellow corner back on this year’s county U20 side, Ian MacNamara will also be part of Lohan’s panel for 2023. The Killanena native impressed for Terence Fahy’s side in their narrow defeats to Limerick and Cork while with the East Clare club he played further out the field in the intermediate championship.
Ballyea’s Brandon O’Connell will be part of a Clare panel for the first time after getting the nod in recent weeks. Regarded as one of the most improved hurlers within the ranks of the county champions, he has had the task of curtailing players like Podge Collins during Robbie Hogan’s side run to retaining the Canon Hamilton.
Although Éire Óg lost out when it came to the county final against Ballyea, the showing of Oran Cahill at wing back was a real positive. His performances during the year have been rewarded with the Ennis youngster now joining the ranks of the county senior panel.
Jack Kirwan who started both of Clare’s games in the Munster U20 championship is another of the new additions. The Parteen forward stood out for his club as they reached the Clare IHC quarter-finals losing to beaten finalists Tulla in what was the South Clare club’s only defeat of the championship.
A member of the Clare minor hurling team in 2018, Gearoid O’Grady makes his return to an inter-county set-up. The Kilmaley corner forward was a lively figure for defenders to deal with this season, he picked up a Clare Cup medal for the side managed by Conor Clancy and coached by Colin Lynch while his movement off the ball and use of it is believed to have impressed the Clare management who also watched him in action for Kilmihil during the Clare SFC group stages.
Crusheen’s Oisin O’Donnell is another of the county U20 side to make the step up. He scored 1-04 from play for his club when they defeated Smith O’Briens to ensure they were not part of the relegation series this season while he is also the holder of a Dr Harty Cup medal.
Currently sidelined with injury, Conor Leen of Corofin is understood to have received the call from the senior management. The defender has been unlucky with injuries in the past two seasons, he was part of the Corofin/Ruan side which won the U21A championship in 2021 and is part of Joe Cahill’s side currenty vying to retain their title.
Given his outstanding displays for Sixmilebridge in this year’s championship, there will be disappointment among Clare supporters that Seadna Morey has not been enticed back to the fold as of yet.
Former Clare captain Patrick O’Connor has announced his retirement from inter-county hurling and he will not be part of the panel next season for the first time in thirteen years. Sixmilebridge’s Shane Golden also informed the county manager of his plans to opt out for next year.
Golden’s teammate Páidí Fitzpatrick who started at wing-back in the semi-final defeat to Kilkenny in what was his first appearance of the championship is no longer part of the Clare panel.
Of surprise to hurling followers in the county has been the decision of management to drop four time Clare SHC winner, Jack Browne from the panel. He made his senior debut for the county in the 2014 championship in his first senior campaign and first played for Lohan at Fitzgibbon Cup level with UL, winning the title in 2015 and later getting the captaincy.
He had been a regular starter during Lohan’s first year over Clare in 2020 but was unable to regain his place after being substituted at half-time in the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Waterford that year. He had been arguably the player of the club championship in 2021 when captaining Ballyea to honours and was once again a critical part of their team as they won back to back titles for the first time.
Ex Clare U20 captain, Gary Cooney has emigrated to Australia. The O’Callaghans Mills forward goaled with his first touch to see Clare seal an All-Ireland qualifier win over Wexford in July 2021. He was unable to break into the team this season.
Domhnall McMahon who made his senior debut on Lohan’s watch in 2020 has also been let go from the panel. The Tubber forward was first called onto the panel by Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor in 2019.
After a one year stint on the extended panel, Éire Óg’s Darren O’Brien will not be returning to the senior squad. He was an ever-present member of the Ennis club’s run to the Clare SHC final this year, their first since 2000.
Joint Harty Cup winning captain with St Flannan’s College in 2020, Conner Hegarty is also exiting the panel. The Inagh/Kilnamona midfielder was added to the panel following the conclusion of the Munster U20 championship last year, it followed an impressive club campaign where he played a central role in helping Inamona reach the 2021 county final.
Clonlara’s Aidan Moriarty who also joined the panel this year is not currently part of management’s plans. The UL student recently impressed in the U21A hurling championship, scoring 1-03 from play in a standout display as the South-East Clare side booked their place in the quarter-finals.
There will also be alterations to the make-up of the management team with Kilmallock native Adrian O’Brien on board as the new strength and conditioning coach.
He had spent four years in the same role with the Limerick senior footballers while he is both the S&C and hurling coach for Ballyea and St Finbarr’s who won the Clare and Cork senior hurling championships respectively.
For Lohan’s first three years in the role, the trio of Michael Carmody (fitness and speed development), Trevor Slattery (strength and conditioning) and Shane Hassett (sports science / strength and conditioning) had been involved in this space.
Hassett’s new role for 2023 is that of performance coach with Limerick native Carmody also set to remain involved, he joined the Feakle coaching set-up this season. Slattery’s involvement is uncertain at this point, he has been part of managements for several club teams in the county including the Cratloe senior footballers and Kilmaley senior hurlers.