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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018

Jamesie O'Connor: This Clare team can surpass 90s counterparts

The Sky Sports analyst believes Davy Fitzgerald’s side may find it difficult to recapture last year’s form.

Jamesie O'Connor has been named as Sky's new hurling analyst.
Jamesie O'Connor has been named as Sky's new hurling analyst.
Image: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

NEW SKY SPORTS hurling analyst Jamesie O’Connor says the mood in Clare remains relatively positive following their league campaign and believes they can surpass the achievements of the famous 90s side that won two All-Irelands in three years.

Having triumphed in memorable fashion in the All-Ireland final last year, they were beaten at the semi-final stage of Allianz League by Tipperary this year.

However, O’Connor is not overly concerned by the losses they have picked up since the All-Ireland win.

“It was largely positive. They played extraordinarily well against Waterford at home. Carved Tipp open in Thurles. Had to dog deep obviously in the first game against Kilkenny, that was a very important game for them. The loss to Dublin was sandwiched in between that.

“In hindsight it was no bad thing losing to Tipperary in the semi-final in the sense that they were on their way to Portugal shortly after that for a training week. They got a lot of work done over there and there was club championship in Clare last weekend, so they’re probably reasonably happy with where they’re at at the moment.

“Shane O’Donnell pulled his hamstring a number of weeks back and apparently he aggravated it at the weekend, so with four weeks there’s a big question mark over him. He was almost unmarkable against Waterford, so he’ll obviously be a loss. But other than that, their heads are down. They’re working hard on getting themselves ready for the game against Cork or Waterford, who will have that Championship match under their belts.”

Teams often find it difficult after an All-Ireland-winning season to recapture their best form, and O’Connor believes this issue will be no different for Clare.

“That’s the challenge for them and one they’re very conscious of. You win the All-Ireland and certain things come with it that you can’t get away from and that’s a great headache to have but maybe Kilkenny are a lot more used to dealing with that than our lads would have been and the team was so young. But listen, they’re a very level-headed bunch, they’ve a very, very good backroom team there. I think they carry themselves very, very well.

“As a player you’re nearly glad to get to a point where you get back into it and the head goes down and you focus back in on doing the things that got you there in the first place. That’s where they are at the moment and I think they’re a real level-headed bunch and I think they’re taking most of that stuff in their stride but at the same time conscious that they’re up there to be shot at there’s a Championship game coming down the tracks in four weeks time that they have to be ready for.”

O’Connor thinks highly of Clare’s current crop of youngsters and even believes the side even have the ability to outstrip the achievements of the famous 90s team, of which O’Connor was a member.

“You look at the age profile, we were very young in ’95. I was 23, Brian Lohan 24, but Seanie McMahon, Frank Lohan and all those guys were younger than us. They were under-21 at the time so the age profile in a way is similar. If anything, the current Clare side are younger so they know that potentially there’s an opportunity for them to be really competitive over the next few years.

“As I said, they’re an ambitious bunch of young men. The hope would be in Clare that they’ll kick on now and they don’t settle for one. I don’t think that they will and winning one, in a way, takes the pressure off. Certainly for me, as a player, the second one was sweeter than the first because it franked it, that luck wasn’t an issue.

“They didn’t beat Kilkenny and Tipperary along the way last year. That’s something that they’d be saying as well. ‘Maybe we’ll have to dot hat this summer or next year to be franked as a seriously good team’, and good teams or great teams obviously win a second if not more.”

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TheScore Team

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