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David McInerney captained Clare to an easy win over Kerry in the first round of the Munster senior hurling league. Photograph by John Kelly

McInerney retains perspective on and off the field

“I’M very immature. I’d happily watch a Disney movie and find it funny. If my mother is coming home from work, I’ll stand in a corner and jump out and scare her.” Not usually the words you associate with a Clare senior player.
2013 All-Star David McInerney has vacated his corner-back position this year for a number six jersey, although unfortunately injury has ruled him out of Sunday’s National Hurling League final.
When I meet McInerney he’s a bit late for the interview. He’s just after milking and dosing 85 cows on a Monday afternoon. He’s wearing old farm clothes covered in cow dung but he changes quickly and makes two cups of tea (without electricity today). This week he isn’t teaching primary school children but when you’re from a farm, there’s always something to do. Mind you, he only woke at 8.30am this morning, which is sinful on any farm.
The Tulla clubman was quite busy in his younger years and a passionate sports fan. He played handball, hurling, soccer, rugby and was an All-Ireland 100m champion as a young lad. However, he didn’t have a favourite sports person growing up.
“Whoever was playing well that was on TV, no matter what sport, I’d go outside and try to emulate them out the backyard,” he said.
He mentions Ken McGrath and Jonah Lomu but his love affair with hurling always gripped him. His first memory of it was “out in the lawn playing with dad’s hurley. T’was a 35in and I was playing with family.”
McInerney acknowledges the cliché of practice makes perfect but maintains it was hours of practice that made him an inter-county hurler today. I tell him that I never thought he’d be playing senior hurling for Clare. I thought it would have been McInerney’s teammate, Darragh Corry, if anyone.
“The likes of Corry and lads like that, when people would say they’re better than you, it would spur you on to do better. I remember when we’d come home from a match but they’d nearly ask you how Corry got on before you got on when I was around 16, 17 or 18. And then the last year we were minor we got to the All-Ireland final. I came on for two minutes and that was a low point for me.
“You trained so hard all year and you only get two minutes of a match, which was basically over. Two weeks after that, we played Whitegate in the senior championship and I think I scored seven points from play. That kind of gave me some confidence to keep going.”
Before McInerney attended UL, he studied at Froebel College, Dublin for four years to become a primary-school teacher. It was there that he picked up his first college medal.
“I’m very fortunate. There are four divisions in college hurling and I’ve won Division 1, 2 and 4.” McInerney won the Fergal Maher Cup (Division 4) with Froebel.
“That was probably my favourite one because I was playing with lads that never hurled before. So we would have had lads that never swung a hurley in their life; it was just great craic. My claim to fame in football then was we lost three Division 3 finals in-a-row and I partnered Michael Dara McAuley midfield for one of them; so I’m delighted with that.”
There’s a sense of humility about McInerney. He’d rather talk about the less significant medals he earned as a college player. Under Brian Lohan’s guidance, McInerney captained UL to Fitzgibbon glory in 2015.
“The big thing about him [Brian] was regardless of his hurling ability and his athleticism on the hurling field, off the field he’s just a really nice guy getting on very well with all the guys on the panel, regardless of who they were. So whether it was first years or fourth years, he had that personality about him. A real kind of open personality and, as it turns out, that was a big factor in us winning that Fitzgibbon.”
There are certain pressures that inter-county hurling brings. Seánie McMahon and Seán Stack are some of the most famous names to wear the jersey. In many cases, the jersey invites more pressure.
McInerney sees things a little differently.
“When I’m playing myself, there’s zero pressure. Although watching it [from the stand due to injury], I’m a nervous wreck. I’d be above in the stand and I can’t sit still. The year I finished U-21 in 2013 and the year after when you’re over age, I just felt so nervous for them in every game they played.”
McInerney, who is still only 23-years-old, has won many honours so what is it that drives him to be successful?
“The roar you get when you do something good in a match, like when you score a class point, a right good catch, or a good block or tackle, I get a really good buzz off that. There’s 40,000 to 80,000 people shouting at something you did good.
“Obviously, I play hurling to win as well. The last two years weren’t enjoyable, whereas this year already we’ve won 12 games and haven’t lost any. There’s way more enjoyment out of it.”
There are many negatives and positives to being a modern day county player. If McInerney wasn’t playing hurling or teaching, he would probably “be abroad having craic”. He says he is laid back in character but there’s a bit of mischief to him as well. He told me an anecdote, when, like today, a lot of Tulla didn’t have electricity.
“We were in second year of school and I was in America a few months before it and bought an American football. I went back into shotgun [quarter-back’s position] and told John Sheedy to go long and hit three power lines. The next thing there was a massive explosion. The lines came down off the pole and were sparking on the ground.”
Seemingly, there was no electricity in half of Tulla for over a day. McInerney has owned up 12 years later.

Gavin Moroney

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