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Old friends pull hard for one hour only

Kevin Phelan came to work as a bank official in Clare a little over 30 years ago, firstly in Shannon before later moving to Ennis. He set up home in the county capital and has lived there since.Working in a bank provided opportunities to meet people and this led to the formation of many friendships. Equally helpful was the fact that he is a lover of hurling, which isn’t surprising given that he comes from Kilkenny. One of his many friends is former Clare hurler John Callinan, a solicitor based in Ennis. Scarcely a Monday goes by that they don’t meet at lunchtime.While the state of the economy generally comes into their Monday discussion, the majority of the lunchtime discussion is about hurling, the previous weekend’s matches and the upcoming fixtures.In recent weeks, Sunday’s U-21 hurling decider between Kilkenny and Clare has been discussed on quite a few occasions. Not alone is Kevin a staunch Kilkenny supporter well versed in …

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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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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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