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Clonlara captain Jathan McMahon. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

From sitting in the cup to potentially lifting it

Clonlara captain Jathan McMahon has got his hands on the Canon Hamilton trophy before. And not just his hands either as being related to Clonlara’s 2008 winning captain Paul Collins, his first memories of watching his club were celebratory ones.
“There’s a photo at home of me sitting in the cup.
“I was only eight and obviously small so there’s plenty of photos of me and my uncle-in-law Paul and the family.
“I was in my element and really looked up to the players that won it. I also distinctly remember going into school the following week, it was an just unreal atmosphere.
“It’s mad now to think that I’m playing alongside John [Conlon] and now preparing for a senior final of our own.”
Much like Conlon and the Class of 2008, their momentum-fuelled charge stemmed from a strong core of of exciting young players who soared to the club’s first ever Minor A title five years ago, led by Jathan himself who will lead Clonlara’s march behind the Tulla Pipe Band in Sunday’s Final.
“I’m absolutely honoured to be the captain. It’s a dream come true since 2008 looking at Paul lift that cup, that’s all you wanted to do as a young fella was to be that captain so it is a privilege to lead out this side that has so many leaders in it.
“You automatically look to John [Conlon], Colm {Galvin], Ian [Galvin], Micheál {O’Loughlin] and then you have a lot of fellas my own age that are born leaders too so it’s an absolute privilege to lead them out on the pitch every day.
“Colm [O’Meara], Aidan [Moriarty] and Dylan [McMahon] are unreal hurlers, Logan [Ryan] too and we’ve been like that since minor, we’ve a great bond together and we just want to get on the ball and hurl.
“We’ve been good friends all the way up along. At underage, we used to get a battering, we wouldn’t win an argument and we just kind of matured a bit coming into minor, even though we had only got together for that campaign the week before it started.
“We played Inagh-Kilnamona in the first round and thought we’d get hockeyed but didn’t and we just went from there I suppose, a bit like this year.”
That 2018 Minor decider against Clarecastle was played before the senior version between Ballyea and Cratloe in Cusack Park but for five of that team that will be starting this Sunday, it has been such a meteoric rise.
“I’ll never forget the crowd was packed by the end of that fine and that there was bunting up all over the parish then and it’s the same again now which brings a great pride to the parish.
“Back then, we could have never imagined playing in a senior final five years later. I mean at the time the senior team wasn’t exactly knocking on the door of a final or even competing in quarter-finals or semi-finals.
“That changed last year in this dressing room actually [in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge]. After winning the senior B for the third year in a row, we agreed that this wasn’t good enough for Clonlara who had been regularly in semi-finals and finals before that.
“We went back into the gym two weeks later and we haven’t looked back since.”
A nervy opening victory over the Mills was quickly following by a rousing win over neighbours Sixmilebridge that for McMahon would prove the catalyst for their perfect five match run to Sunday’s final.
“Beating the ‘Bridge was one of the best results that we’ve ever had. We hadn’t beaten them since 2011 so that was a huge game to really make us believe.”
The belief is there in abundance now and it’s the same for Crusheen who ever since their nine point reverse to Clonlara, have used that motivation to transform their entire season
“It’s eight weeks since we’ve played then but they’re a completely different team now and therefore we will be taking nothing for granted against them.
“We’re going out to throw everything at it. We know how much disappointment there has been over the past 15 years so we’re going to give absolutely everything as will Crusheen. So I’m sure its going to be a huge battle.
Asked if 2008 captain Paul Collins had any words of advise for Sunday’s final, Jathan immediately retorted. “No he didn’t. He just told me to focus on the game.”
However, Clonlara’s current captain does take inspiration from the men of 2008.
“A lot of the players at that time were even younger than we are now so it just shows that age isn’t a factor and 2008 also shows that just because you have a young up-and-coming team that there’s no guarantee that you will win it again.
“It’s 15 years since that win and we’re still looking to win it back so you’ve got to take that chance when you get it and hopefully this Sunday we can.”

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