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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

'He was probably looking down at us today, he was just a massive hurling man' - tribute from Clare captain

Pat O’Connor was keen to remember a late Clare hurling supporter after Sunday’s clash.

Clare hurling captain Pat O'Connor before Sunday's game.
Clare hurling captain Pat O'Connor before Sunday's game.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IN THE 75TH minute in Semple Stadium on Sunday, Brian Hogan launched a puckout deep into Clare territory as Tipperary trailed by a point and tried to salvage their 2018 season.

The ball dropped around the D in the Clare rearguard but captain Pat O’Connor vaulted into the air to make the catch and fired a relieving clearance to instigate the move that saw Peter Duggan rifle over the insurance point.

O’Connor’s fetch was a vital intervention and the final whistle sparked wild Clare celebrations.

For the Clare captain when it came to reflect in the aftermath, the victory was tinged with huge emotion.

Last Tuesday, Michael Fogarty from Crusheen passed away after a crash on the M18 motorway near Ennis.

His funeral took place on Saturday morning and O’Connor paid an emotional tribute on Sunday to ‘a massive supporter’ of the Clare hurling squad.

“It was a big (catch) but you’re not even thinking that, you’ve got the ball and you’re up,” reflected O’Connor.

“Look maybe someone was looking down to us today.

“And I just want to say a quick word to the people of Crusheen because there was an awful tragedy there this week.

“A massive hurling man, a massive supporter of us was killed in a car accident, Michael Fogarty of Crusheen.

“He was a massive supporter of us and someone I knew awful, awful well. He was probably looking down on us today, he was just a massive hurling man.

“He supported us through thick and thin and I spoke to him nearly every day through work. It’s probably tinged with a bit of emotion today at the final whistle because of him.”

The sense of emotion after the game was heightened for O’Connor by the significance of Clare’s victory. He spent over half an hour on the pitch afterwards, making his way through the Clare crowd and talking to Banner well-wishers.

Semple Stadium has not always been such a happy hunting ground for Clare. In 2013 they defeated Galway there at the quarter-final stage en route to lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup but after that they had only won two of their next eight hurling championship ties there before Sunday’s meeting with Tipperary.

“There’s plenty of days there where no one’s asking you for your autograph and you wanted the field to swallow you up. But no, just delighted we finally got the fruits for our labour because we’ve worked so hard and we’ve hurted together and we’ve gone back when there mightn’t necessarily been a massive hunger to go back.

“It was patience all day up there. In fairness to Tipperary they’re such men, such resilience up there, it was like beating a brick wall at times. We got one chance and we took it. I suppose that’s a side of our game, that clinical edge that we’ve needed to develop.”

O’Connor is now shifting his focus to next Sunday’s encounter with Limerick in Clare’s natural environs in Ennis, where he hopes they can maintain the momentum engendered by Sunday’s win.

“To say we came out of this Munster championship is good because it was hell for leather. It examined you in a way we haven’t been examined before. We want silverware now and we’ve got momentum now and we’ll be looking to use every bit of that now for next week. Playing in Cusack Park, regardless of what the game means, Cusack Park is our home patch and we’ll defend it next week.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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