*Páraic O’Loughlin clears his lines. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

EIGHT YEARS on from making his senior debut, Páraic O’Loughlin has found his home on the Clonlara senior hurling team.

Better known as Podge to his friends, Páraic O’Loughlin has given his all for his native Clonlara since making his debut in 2015. Incredibly that debut was as a goalkeeper when they faced off against Clarecastle and O’Loughlin then spent a stint in the forwards before his manager Donal Madden nailed down the wing back spot as his starting position.

“To think I started in goal against Clarecastle eight years ago and now I’m lining out wing back in a Munster Club final after a few years in the forwards is just ridiculous really but I’m not complaining. Putting on any number jersey is an honour but I won’t lie I was a bit hesitant about it when Donal said it to me at the start of the year. I’d like to think I could still offer something as a forward but Donal didn’t think so,” he quipped while breaking into a fit of laughing.

O’Loughlin had been wing forward last season but in defence the season prior to this. The move back to the half-back line he admitted “was really just a reshuffling job to get John (Conlon) back into the forwards and I suppose he (Donal) got it right but I won’t tell him that. There’s a uniqueness to it being in the backs and it’s the first year I’ve finished most games. You tend to be taken off more in the forwards as you need to be imposing yourself. It took me a while but to be honest I’m really enjoying it back there and sure when you’re winning everything seems enjoyable”.

By having a quick look at Páraic, there is one glaring difference in his appearance since their county final success in October to their preparation for a Munster final, that being the presence of a moustache. “The old Movember thing is something that we decided to do at work and yeah there’s a lot going on there (as he points to his upper lip) and thankfully you didn’t bring a photographer with you,” he explained.

“The lads are calling me Jim Hickey at training now and I think it’s a great compliment. Seriously though I’m doing it with my work colleagues and we are raising money for prostate cancer and men’s mental health. I’ve almost two thousand euros raised now and I might look a bit silly but it really is for a great and often neglected cause. Mental health especially men’s doesn’t get highlighted enough in my opinion. It’s a huge issue and it needs highlighting so we’ll take the slagging no problem, it’s all part of the banter at training anyways. If it isn’t me getting slagged I’d be the first to slag someone else. You have to have the banter at training sure”.

Sport can be a big help for anybody with mental health issues so playing hurling in December must be a real positive. “It’s incredible to be training in the middle of November and I know it’s a cliche but you really don’t want the journey to end. It’s absolutely magical to be playing this time of year. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going now.”

That momentum will see Clonlara take the stage in the Munster club final for the first time. “This wouldn’t have been on the notepaper when you sit down and make a list of goals and objectives at the start of the year. It’s been a one match at a time approach and it’s just steamrolled into where we are now. The Mills game in round one is a reference point for us and has been all year. John said to us straight after it that the momentum was now with us and we were to take the bull by the horns and thankfully we did”.

“This year we’ve had everything thrown at us. From Clonlara like good weather to Clonlara can’t play on a bad day, to an almighty battle with Éire Óg and then facing thirteen players we’ve just gone with it all to be honest. We rolled up our sleeves, dealt with all the obstacles and tried to deliver a performance and as a group that’s our major goal, deliver for the people of Clon, deliver for ourselves, leave it all out there and what will be will be”.

That work for each other and leave it all out there attitude will certainly be needed when they square off against the reigning All-Ireland club champions, Ballygunner. “It’s where we want to be. It’s just another step. Yes they’re a machine, a serious outfit but we can’t do anything about them. What we can do though is focus on our game, focus on our performance and that’s all we can do. Look it’s a dream to have Canon Hamilton here so next Sunday we just want to keep dreaming. Once we give it everything we can do and we do the parish proud well then we will have no regrets”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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