*Matthew O’Halloran. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

THREE OF THE Clare team from 1995 will be looking on proudly this weekend as their sons form part of the county minor squad vying for All-Ireland glory.

There’s a well-known phrase that an ounce of breeding will beat a tonne of feeding. Mark O’Connor, Matthew O’Halloran and Fred Hegarty come from hurling royalty. Their fathers, Jamesie, Michael and Fergal are household names, heroes from the all-conquering All-Ireland winning teams of 1995 and 1997 but the trio are hoping to win what only one Clare team have ever won and that’s the famed Irish Press Cup.

To begin the conversation, we ask what is it like to have All-Ireland medal winners for Dads.

Mark O’Connor (MOC) – “It has both positives and negatives to be honest. It’s a big thing to live up to and it does bring a bit of pressure but it’s a great thing too. You’d be going to matches and people from all over the country recognize him. We were at the Ulster Final recently and people from Armagh and so on recognized him straight away. It does make you proud”.

Fred Hegarty (FH) – “I would take a lot of inspiration from my father to be honest. He started me hurling out the back when I was only three or four. I’ve watched all his games from those golden years and it’s absolutely brilliant. Hurling was a lot different back then though but the principles are still the same. He always tells me to work hard and play with pride. He tells me to listen to my coaches and try follow instructions as best I can. He’s always there for me after a game where we discuss it. He really does know his hurling and like Mark and Matthew I’m so proud of him”.

Matthew O’Halloran (MOH) – “It’s a real inspiration having Dad at home. Knowing what he has achieved on the field . You just want to try and replicate it and do better if possible. I can’t tell you how many times my Dad forced me to watch the 1995 All Ireland,” he says roaring with laughter. “Seriously though he is always encouraging me in a positive way. You couldn’t but feel pride especially when you hear people go on about how important 1995 was”.

Hurling is now more than ever a squad game and substitutes can be the ultimate difference between victory and defeat. This Clare side have consistently changed the starting fifteen and it seems that if you’re going well in training you get your opportunity on match day. The lads give their view.

MOC – “The competition for places is huge from one to twenty nine. You really have to work hard. You can’t drop the standards in training or you’ll be gone. That’s the great thing about it. Anyone can be called in to start or to do a job late on. You just have to be ready when you’re needed. We are all in it together and we know that it takes every single one of us to play to our best and perform for the team. Otherwise we wouldn’t have won Munster”.

Fred Hegarty. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

FH – “Damien (O’Halloran) has it drilled into us that if we aren’t starting that we are the finishers and that’s the way we look at it. If it’s for twenty minutes or five minutes you are expected to do a job and we feel like we can do a job. It’s an honour to play for your county and if you can contribute something it’s even better. It’s about all of us not just one to fifteen. Sure you wouldn’t be winning matches unless substitutes make an impact”.

MOH – “The squad is brilliant. All of the lads give it everything in training all of the time. We have a great bond and it’s a joy to come training. We all work so hard for each other and I have faith in all of the twenty nine guys”.

MOC – “We have a great bond. We would all go to war with each other. We know each other all the way up through the development squads and I know these lads will give everything they have for the cause. It’s a great feeling knowing the quality of hurler we have”.

FH – “I’ve actually played three county finals against Mark twice and Mattie once and I’ve lost all three but they’re still great lads even though they’ve broken my heart a few times. It’s brilliant to be playing with them in the county Jersey. It’s truly special.”

MOH – “Like the lads said we’d all know each other so well. We will have a cut off each other when playing for our clubs but we will die for each other when we put on the county jersey”.

To win on Sunday and get their hands on the Irish Press Cup is something they are determined to do.

MOC – “It would be amazing. It’s a bit surreal to be honest to think that we have this opportunity. When the whistle went after the Munster Final you needed a minute to actually let it sink in what we had just achieved. To go on and win it now would be unbelievable”.

FH – “It’s been some journey. Beating Cork in the Munster Final was incredible. We then beat Kilkenny but Galway will be as tough a challenge as there is. They are the benchmark at underage hurling but we’ve improved all year long and I know if we win it’ll be massive for all the people. It would mean the world to be honest”.

MOH – “Hopefully we can do it. That team in 1997 was a great team with great hurlers. We just hope that we can go on and be hurling for Clare for years to come. It would be great to make Dad watch the minor final of 2023 a hundred times if we win it”.

 

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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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