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Ballyea Senior Hurler Cathal O'Connor: "I’m thoroughly happy that I made that decision as to contribute in some way and to win a senior championship medal is great."

Dual star O’Connor delighted with decision to return

Champion Chatter

Eleven years after his last senior championship experience, Cathal O’Connor triumphantly returned to Ballyea’s ranks last year in what would arguably prove their greatest Canon Hamilton title feat of all.

After all, without talisman and back-to-back All-Star Tony Kelly, the 2016 and ’18 champions’ chances of overcoming a momentum-fuelled Inagh-Kilnamona initially appeared bleak.

However, a typically never-say-die final storm from O’Connor and Co. dramatically turned the tie in their favour. It proved the final element in the Clare Senior footballer’s assimilation process and he hasn’t looked back since.

“It worked out to be a brilliant decision. With Coolmeen, we haven’t played senior so it was a great opportunity to see what the pace of senior championship was in Clare. I’m thoroughly happy that I made that decision as to contribute in some way and to win a senior championship medal is great.

“There weren’t too many strangers in the dressing room anyway to begin with as there was a big cohort of footballers from all parts of West Clare and four or five different clubs so I knew most of the boys previously.

“And anyone I didn’t immediately know, I got to know over the course of last year’s championship as there’s nothing like competing alongside your team-mates to bring you closer together very quickly.

“The lads are very welcoming, they have made me feel really at home here but by winning last year, I did feel more comfortable this year as it wasn’t as completely alien to me.

“Now in saying that, I do sometimes still get a bit iof a shock when the ball hits the hurley and comes straight into my hand. It’s like ‘wow that actually happened’ so I’m hardly a Tony Kelly but I do a job I like to think.”

A second final awaits this Sunday, up against an Éire Óg side that is as unfamiliar to O’Connor as they are to Ballyea, being their first championship derby in six seasons.

“We’ll relish the chance at the Townies but there’s no doubt either that they’ll relish a chance at the county champions too. It’s going to be a serious battle as they [Éire Óg] are flying it at the moment in both hurling and football. They’re going from week to week and winning every week so their tails are going to be up so it’s up to us to match them and hopefully turn them over.

“They are a seriously athletic team and then they have sprinkles of unbelievable talent as well. I think we can match them physically and it will all come down to the day and whoever gets the bounce of the ball.

“It will be a fairly titanic battle I’d say because the two of us will not hold back from each other one bit so there will more than likely only be a puck of the ball in it either way.”

About Eoin Brennan

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