According to Clare hurler Nicky O’Connell, being part of the county senior panel is practically a full time commitment but he loves it. “Being with the lads everyday is like a breath of fresh air. All we want to do is play for Clare and I am no different to the rest,” he said this week ahead of Sunday’s Munster senior hurling semi-final date with Waterford at Thurles.
It has been a very busy time on the hurling fields for the 23-year-old Clonlara man. Having represented Clare for two years at minor level, he was a member of the county U-21 side for three seasons and helped Clare to Munster and All-Ireland honours in 2009. A year earlier, he was a central figure in Clonlara’s breakthrough in Clare when they won the senior championship, having won the intermediate title in both Clare and Munster a year earlier.
Such was O’Connell’s role in these club successes that his call-up to the senior panel didn’t come as a surprise. He quickly established himself as a first-choice player with Clare and will be hoping to play a key part on Sunday, when Clare hope to book a Munster senior final place
“Every year, the aim is to win the first championship game and this year it is no different. Our initial aim was to get out of Division 1B in the league, as this was seen as a massive building block for the coming years.
“We are young enough to be there for a few years, as the average age of the squad is 22 to 23. With a bit of momentum and confidence, we could go places,” said the Clare midfielder.
“When you are young, all you want to do is to play senior with the county and to perform at your best. At senior level, we haven’t done ourselves justice in the last few years. The lads are saying we are a young team but we are getting older and time is running out. That’s not an excuse any more,” warned O’Connell, one of three brothers who are part of the Clonlara senior team.
“Waterford won’t be easily beaten. They have players like John Mullane and Brick Walsh and when you add in the younger lads, they have serious talent in their panel and they will cause any opposition a lot of trouble. We will have to be at our best if we are to progress. The players want to go the direct route and getting to a Munster final would be massive for Clare. It would also give us an All-Ireland quarter final place,” he said.
O’Connell, who is equally comfortable as a half-back, says he grew up when the seniors were winning and he wants to do that.
“All I want is to win championship games with Clare and I can’t wait for Sunday. If we are to win, we have to come with our A game, otherwise we will be in trouble. We have to be ready, as they are a serious outfit.”
Concluding, he said that a Clare victory would create a great buzz around the county. “Clare haven’t won in the last four or five years and a victory is due. A win would encourage more supporters to come out and the more the better.”