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*A dejected John Conlon at the final whistle in Sixmilebridge on Saturday. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLONLARA MANAGER, Donal Madden refused to be drawn on reports that they dropped key players for their Clare SHC opening round due to disciplinary reasons.

Just one point separated Clonlara and Feakle in a keenly contested first round clash with Feakle on Saturday evening.

While experienced Clare hurler John Conlon returned to action for the 2008 champions, they were without the injured Colm Galvin who is to undergo a scan on a knee injury this week. Cormac O’Donovan was another absentee with the duo of Dylan McMahon and Ian Galvin available for selection but not utilised.

Both McMahon and Clare corner forward Galvin are understood to have been dropped for disciplinary reasons. However Madden refused to discuss reports on their absence from the action in a very close affair.

Dylan McMahon and Ian Galvin watched the game from above the press box in O’Garney Park. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

A key member of the Clonlara attack which claimed the Canon Hamilton, Donal insisted they had no choice but to regroup and commended the efforts of experienced players to make themselves available for the tie.

He said, “We worked awful hard in the second half but we just couldn’t get ahead. We are disappointed. We did have a lot of injuries but we have no excuses. Feakle won the game. We have got to re-group and go again. The return of John Conlon from injury was a big plus. Players like Oisin O’Brien and Tots (Cathal O’Connell) worked very hard in the last two weeks to be ready for this”.

In his second year over Feakle’s senior side, PJ Kelleher is hopeful to build on last year’s Clare Cup success by backing it up with qualification to the quarter-finals. “All our focus all year was this day and winning our first game was vital. The lads battled brilliantly, they put their bodies on the line, hooked and blocked and showed great honesty. Against the wind it looked as if the game was going against us. The lads that came in did well. We used fellas in the league and they were needed today and they stood up”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Bodyke native was under no illusions they faced another stern test when meeting Sixmilebridge this Saturday. “We are out again next week. We have to switch now and turn our focus on Sixmilebridge. They were very impressive today so it’s going to be a massive task. We have injuries but we will turn out focus now on next week”.

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