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Clare and Clooney-Quin senior hurler Ryan Taylor: I’ve spent a lot of time shooting so I feel like I’m improving all the time'. Photograph by John Kelly

Competition for Clare place suits Taylor just fine

Champion Chatter Podcast

Ryan Taylor tells Ivan Smyth he is happy to test himself to stake his claim in a strong panel

RYAN Taylor would be forgiven for looking warily over his shoulder as the next batch of talented young hurlers received call-ups for pre-season training.

The Clooney-Quin stickman has not enjoyed the typical route of progressing straight from the U21 set up in to the senior panel. Instead after being a key part of the Clare side that reached the U21 Munster final in 2015, it was only in November 2017 that he earned the call up to the senior set up.

Helping his club reach the county final in 2017 earned him a place in Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor’s squad for the following year but he struggled for game time initially. When Brian Lohan took over towards the end of 2019, he handed Taylor a chance with the Clooney-Quin hurler snatching it with both hands.

He started all of Clare’s Championship outings last year as he admits that it took time for him to adjust to the step up in quality needed at the top level.

“Donal and Gerry called me in so I’m grateful to them. Sometimes it takes a few years. I would be coming on in games in previous years. Training now is more focused on the hurling side of things and my hurling has definitely improved. I’ve spent a lot of time shooting so I feel like I’m improving all the time. Brian gave me a chance. I’ve held the position the last two years. Playing at half forward seems to suit me and my game.”

Despite Lohan continuing to give youth a chance, Taylor is relishing the competition for places as the younger players continue to stake a claim for starting berths.

“As a team you need every player. You love seeing young lads come through. Without competition you can get comfortable. We have a strong panel and you want to test yourself. It is a 20 man game nowadays so you need everyone. If you want to be challenging for an All Ireland you need every player you can get.”

“Brian and the lads will be trying to finalise a team for Championship so we are all working hard to try and nail a starting spot. It is hard to break in to a team. There are a lot of lads vying for jerseys so you want to play well in the league and finalise your spot in the 26 for Championship.”

In this year’s league the top side in each group progresses to the league final. Clare face a tough task as they are paired with an all conquering Limerick side, last year’s All Ireland finalists Cork, Galway, Wexford and Offaly.

Brian Lohan’s charges will face a tough task to progress but Taylor feels these games can stand his side in good stead for the white heat of Championship battle.

“It is definitely a tough group. There are a lot of strong teams there. It is exactly what you want. The league is important but it is all about Championship. The tougher the games, the better. We have Limerick at home in the league and Championship. The likes of that game would be a dress rehearsal. These games will one hundred percent stand to us.”

Their first league game of 2021 ended in a shock two point defeat away to Antrim. Taylor acknowledges that it was a disappointing day for Clare hurling in what was their first competitive outing in 170 days after defeat to Waterford in the All Ireland quarter final the year previous.

He also readily admits that the result was a “wake up call” that helped improve the squad.

“It was my first time playing Antrim at senior anyway. They are a tough team to play at home. They really put it up to us. They are a strong, physical side who are on the up. It was a wake up call for us.”

“It’s tough to go anywhere. In hindsight it stood to us. We gradually improved as after a slow start to the league we finished it strong and brought our form in to the Waterford game. From that game we improved going forward.”

The 26-year-old is relishing the prospect of a busy few months ahead with Clare guaranteed a minimum of five league games and four Championship outings.

Taylor is honest enough to admit that this summer’s action is in the back of his mind as he seeks to help his side navigate some tough tests in the upcoming weeks ahead.

“It is fantastic to have the round robin back. The home games are vitally important as it is hard to go away. We have Limerick and Waterford in the Park so we need to make those count. You would be looking ahead to Championship because with the league you can see where other teams are at and where you are.”

“Having that home crowd and home pitch will be great but we want a good league campaign to give us momentum. You would be looking down the line but we also want to do well in the league.”

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