WHEN the Clare panel dispersed from Miltown, most either stayed in the county or headed for Limerick and Dublin. Cathal O’Connor was the one exception. The Edinburgh-based Coolmeen man set off for Shannon Airport, before landing in eastern Scotland on Sunday night.
O’Connor had a steady game beside Gary Brennan in the Clare midfield. However, his final intervention proved quite decisive as he fouled Leitrim’s Paddy Maguire and was issued with a black card. To compound matters, Leitrim captain Emlyn Mulligan tapped over the free that levelled the game.
“In fairness I probably did,” the civil engineer replied when asked if he felt he deserved the black card.
“Something had to be done. It was going to be a score either way. They say that the black card is going to get rid of cynical fouling but at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, you’re going to do it if you have to do it,” he reasoned.
O’Connor was reasonably satisfied with the draw, particularly as Clare had not capitalised on wind advantage in the opening half.
“We were level after playing with the breeze in the first half and we probably would have taken a point at half-time. Still, in saying that, we were in a winning position, two points up, with a couple of minutes to go. It’s disappointing that we didn’t close out the game,” he acknowledged.
Clare are now joint second, on two points, along with Leitrim and Tipperary, with Wicklow on top with four points.
“It’s the same every year in Division 4. Every team is going to take points off every other team. At the end of the league, this point is the one that could wins us promotion,” he reckoned.
O’Connor has been particularly impressed with Martin O’Leary’s opening games at senior inter-county level. The Kilmihil man has scored a combined 1-5 against Waterford and Leitrim.
“Marty has had a great first two games. He’s able to win his own ball. Once the ball goes into the full-forward line, he’s very good to make it stick. It’s surprising how strong he is for a young lad. It’s a big help. He’s really settling into senior football,” his county colleague said.
On February 23, O’Connor’s travel itinerary won’t involve coming home to Ireland. Instead, he’ll head from Edinburgh to north-west London, where Clare meet the home county in Ruislip.
“They have a lot of good players going over in the last couple of years. They aren’t a bad team and especially at home, they’re going to try and make Ruislip a fortress.
“If we are going to get two points, they are going to be two hard-earned points,” O’Connor said of Sunday week’s fixture in the English capital.
As for his working week in Scotland, O’Connor’s thoughts are never far from the size five ball.
“I come back on Fridays, so I’m around for Friday and Sunday sessions if we don’t have a game. I work away myself over there. I have a pitch session and a gym programme. I’m not missing too much,” he laughed.