IT is no surprise to hear Darach Honan say that his “parents would have shaped my interests a lot” and that those recreational interests have hurling high on the list. His father, Colm, was still hurling with Clonlara when Darach was young.
“I would regularly meet people who would be talking about hurling. I would have heard all the stories about the league finals that Clare won when he was playing and about the Munster finals in which they played. If we can win on Sunday, I will be half way to equalling his tally, as he has two league medals,” the Clare forward told The Clare Champion.
“There is great confidence in the camp. We are going very well this year and we have a lot of work done. We had a bit more done than Kilkenny. It is important for us to do well in the league. The last couple of years weren’t the best for us, so it was important to do well against Kilkenny last day out.”
Both the upcoming fixtures with Waterford are big games.
“The league decider is a national final at the end of the day and we want to win. Waterford won the league last year, beating Cork in the final and they beat them again in the first round of the championship,” he noted.
Colm was a key member of the Clare team that won successive league titles in 1977 and 1978.
“It’s been too long since the title came to Clare,” he said. “We went through a period in the ’90s when we were very good. You would have expected a league or two, as well as the All-Irelands, and I don’t know why we didn’t win. We didn’t have the back-up. We had a very set 16 or 17 but now we have cover, which is a great help. Everyone is striving to be on the team, which makes it very competitive. The team performance is going to improve and it doesn’t matter who they play.”
Honan Senior believes, “The introduction of the back-door system has been a huge help to Clare. Prior to its introduction, Clare were only getting one or two championship games a season and all were against Munster opposition. When you get a second chance, you get more experience and you are playing different teams in the qualifiers. You get to play teams from the other provinces in championship, which we didn’t get to do. We had beaten all the Leinster teams in the league. Kilkenny were never a bother to us. We didn’t fear them in any way. The Cork team we played in those Munster finals in the ’70s were very good. The tension in those Munster finals was unreal. We all wanted so badly to do well. Had we gone out the next day, we would have played a different game.”
Recalling the semi-final win over Kilkenny, Colm said, “It was a great feeling to be on the field after the game and meet everyone again. There was a great feeling of contentment looking at the lads justify themselves and give a performance they are capable of. It was great to see them perform with a freedom and I was delighted for them all.”
The Clonlara club chairman admits, “It’s harder to watch when you have a family member playing. I am a fierce Clare follower anyway. I have gone to all matches. I was involved at all levels in coaching. There is an added interest of having a son playing; it makes it more exciting.”
The 1978 All-Star believes there has been massive improvement in facilities over the years.
“Support systems are way better, as are facilities. Demands have gone up and there is a daily tie in terms of lifestyle and preparation. Everyone is looking for an edge. Look at the technology, the computer analysis of each game. They are really under the microscope. Testing is quite extensive. The distance and speed that they run at in each game is measured. It is inevitable that standards are going to rise. They all want to play to the best of their abilities and they love the fact that it is being monitored so closely. There has been a quantum leap from when we started.”
Colm went on, “Fr Harry [Bohan] demanded a bigger support system from the county board. He was ahead of his time and so was Justin McCarthy. The team of the ’90s under Ger brought it on again. Look at how technology has made such an impact. Ours was huge as well back then.”
Looking ahead to the final, Colm believes “Players won’t hold back. They all want to play and to play to the best of their abilities. The boys on the sideline will be dying to get on and those playing will be fearing that more than fearing Waterford. It’s a league final and how many have we won?”
He believes that when the game is over, both managements will examine the game in detail and tweak things for the next day.
Colm concluded, “The frequency and intensity of the training schedule that these players have is probably contributing to the shortness of the careers. To be an amateur and working every day would blunt enthusiasm after a few years. They are all involved in clubs as well, a lot have other teams also, such as U-21s and college. This team has started quite early and a lot are only 18 or 19. Ten years is a long time. The club scene is a huge thing; the drain of county commitment has affected us in Clonlara. We have had practice matches where we have been missing 10 or 11 players.”