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'His attitude inspired us' - Tony Kelly pays tribute to team-mate who lost his father last week

The Clare U21 captain says the team wanted to win for Georoid O’Connell, whose father died in a farming accident.

Gearoid O'Connell played in the All-Ireland U21 final just ten days after the death of his father.
Gearoid O'Connell played in the All-Ireland U21 final just ten days after the death of his father.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

THE MOMENT AFTER you complete a three-in-a-row is meant to be a joyous occasion where you reflect on 36 months of exceptional dedication and commitment.

And while there was a lot of celebrating after Clare sealed their third straight U21 hurling crown against Wexford yesterday, captain Tony Kelly and co-manager Donal Moloney also took time to mention Gearoid O’Connell, the Clare wing-back whose father died in a farming accident last week.

Moloney was happy his team could provide some comfort to O’Connell’s family and the people from his village.

“The last ten days have been exceptionally difficult,” Moloney said.

“We try to speak about resilience and courage quite a lot and for Gearoid O’Connell and the people of Ballyea and the O’Connell family, hopefully tonight will give them some level of consolation.

“I know they have always been proud of Gearoid O’Connell in Ballyea but the mental resolve he showed to come out tonight and play as he did was outstanding.”

O’Connell lined out for Clare at left wing-back last night and played extraordinary under the circumstances, chipping in with a point from defence. Senior star Kelly said watching how O’Connell handled himself in the aftermath of the tragedy motivated the team.

“His father passed away on Wednesday night and he was out pucking a ball on Thursday morning, that is just the dedication the guy has,” Kelly said.

“He came to training on Sunday night and his attitude in training and in life in general inspired the rest of us.

“If anything I think it brought us closer together and it just shows the character of the man to come through something like that and tog out for Clare this evening.”

Last night’s win capped off a sensational spell of U21 dominance for Moloney and his co-manager Gerry O’Connor as many of the team’s stars will now be ineligible at the grade. Moloney said whether or not the duo stay on won’t just be down to whether they can add to their All-Ireland haul.

“We will have to think about that and we have honestly never spoken about it,” Moloney said.

“The only focus was tonight and we love doing it. It isn’t always about medals and trophies.

“The day will come when days like this won’t be possible in Clare but those days can be just as satisfying as well if you can help a few guys along the way. We will talk about it in the next few weeks.”

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