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Playing through the pain to reach Croker

FOR Broadford’s Cathal Chaplin, it has literally been a case of blood, sweat and tears. For months, he indulged in the hard graft in Ballyline, went through the ritual of doing the drills, making the sacrifices and never complained. Never once. He was content to bide his time patiently on the wings, hoping that some day the window of opportunity would present itself.

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A whirlwind of masses, flights and hurling

IN his superb memoir Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby detailed the personal strains and triumphs of 20 odd years following a top-flight London soccer club. The book has become regarded as the ultimate account of fandom and while its author may know little of Clare hurling, Hornby would surely empathise with Fr Enda Glynn’s passion for it. The county’s hardcore support isn’t particularly big, as has been proven on occasions like the Clare-Tipperary game this summer but there are people like Fr Glynn who try to get the most obscure of fixtures and who have taken particular delight in this year’s U-21 odyssey.

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All calm in the Lyons’ den

LEARNING by losing can harden a team trying desperately to win. As long as they don’t keep losing, never turning the hurt of it all into championship winning armour, it can be the making of a group of eventual winners. Clare’s heroic men of ’95 and ’97 were the whipping boys of ’93 and ’94 before they swapped the dank silence of a beaten dressing room for the back-slapping on offer down the corridor. On the evening of July 31, 2008 several of the Clare U-21s that will sprint onto Croke Park next Sunday, had a Munster medal snapped from their palm. The injustice of it all could have finished them yet maybe it has helped make those who are eligible again this year. “A small bit of adversity is good test of character but I suppose, the difficulty of playing U-21 is some guys don’t get a second chance,” Clare U-21 coach Cyril Lyons reflected. “There were six lads …

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It started from the ground up for Clonlara

THE great success enjoyed by Clonlara GAA Club over the past two years, in particular, together with the march of the Clare U-21s to the All-Ireland final has turned the spotlight very much on the South-East Clare club. While the club has, over the years, provided some great players for county sides, they have never had as many on a county team at the one time.

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Walking tall as a new star

PLAYING Kilkenny in an All-Ireland hurling final is where every hurler wants to be. That’s the view of Clare’s star forward, Darach Honan, chosen as the man of the match in each of Clare’s last two games in this campaign.

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Slipping away from the favourites’ mantle

LIKE most Kilkenny inter-county hurlers, Michael Walsh has been part of a number of title-winning teams. The son of the legendary Ollie, the team’s outstanding goalkeeper in the ‘60s, Michael followed in his father’s footsteps and played at all grades for the Noresiders.There is one medal missing for the Kilkenny U-21 manager’s collection, however. “I played in two All-Ireland U-21 finals but we lost both,” he said as he looked ahead to Sunday’s All-Ireland U-21 final date with Clare when he will be hoping to manage Kilkenny to a second successive title at this level.

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Tuohy has moved on from controversial 65’

IT isn’t even Donal Tuohy’s last year playing U-21 but the grade has already provided him with more pronounced highs and darker lows than many hurlers see in their careers.It may have been the single most dramatic incident of the 2008 GAA summer. With the Munster U-21 final on a knife edge, a quick puck-out from Tuohy found Patrick Kelly and the subsequent Clare attack yielded a free just 20 metres from the Tipp goal.

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The dawn of a new era in Clare hurling?

EXPECTATIONS soared in Clare about the prospect of winning more All-Ireland hurling titles back in September 1997. The county was basking in glory after the senior and minor inter-county sides combined to win the first All-Ireland double on the one day.It looked as if a new era had dawned for Clare hurling and fans were confident that travelling to Croke Park for All-Ireland finals would be a far more regular occurrence.

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