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Davy Fitzgerald chatting with the Underdogs. The Clare man took charge of the Waterford team that took on the Underdogs.

Underdogs defeated, but good experience for Shannon’s Cian


THERE were several Clare hurlers involved in the Underdogs programme which concluded last week, when the side played against Davy Fitzgerald’s Waterford.

Shannon’s Cian O’Rourke was one of the Underdogs best players on the day, contributing 1-6 to their tally, all but the goal coming from frees.

Speaking this week, Cian said that he had been surprised what involvement in the show meant.

“When we started I think it was a selfish thing, just wanting to showcase your own talents and show that you are up to the level. But when you go to the camps and there are lads there sharing experiences it was a complete shock to me, that that was the show I was on.

“I thought it was going to be all hurling but it was more people opening up, who were in my own age group. That was a big shock. Stemming from that there was a really strong bond come match day.”

He said that the Underdogs actually hadn’t spent very long together, but had become quite tight-knit, and not just in hurling terms.

“It might have looked like we were training non-stop but we were only able to see each other a few times during the year. When we met each other we made the most of it and it translated into that bond that we brought to the match day.”

Explaining how he ended up on the show, the 23-year-old said, “Some crowd put up a post saying the Underdogs are back, they’re looking for hurlers and a few lads from the club tagged me. I half applied and I just left it, then a producer rang me and asked me to fill out the whole thing so I did.”

While he hurled for Clare underage, he walked away after being left on the bench for a Munster final.

“The reason for applying; I was in the Clare group for 14s, 15s, 16s 17s, minor, when it came to minor I was always on the extended panel, but I couldn’t face when I wasn’t starting or getting game time.

“After a Munster final in Thurles, I got no game time and we got beaten by 30 points. We had training the next day and I just said I’m not going back.”

He wasn’t picked for the under 20 panel, but still wanted the chance to test himself.

“That was the end of the journey so this was a chance to play an intercounty side, it could be Clare, could be Limerick, someone like that, and it’d be a chance for myself, I didn’t want to prove anything to anyone else, it was just for me to see if I could play at that level.”

With the series gone through and Waterford faced, he’s glad that he did it. “I’ve got it out of my system, if nothing ever happens again at least I can say I’ve played against an intercounty team.”

Although he hit 1-6 Cian wasn’t entirely happy with his display on Saturday, saying “I was and I wasn’t. I had a chance for another goal. A ball came in and I had too much time to think. The corner back had moved out the field, we had a quick counter attack, the ball was hit in to me, there was too much time to think and I fluffed the catch. Other than that I was delighted.

“The first five minutes was just eye opening, at club level you can get a ball and if you’re first touch isn’t right you’ll still have a chance to get it up, in that match you mightn’t have a chance to get a first touch.

“The lad I was on was no taller than myself, but the speed and strength he had… I hadn’t seen a corner back like that in a long time. It took a few minutes to get into it and once I did I found my feet.”

The dismissal of one of the Underdogs made things very tough for the forward he noted, saying “Waterford had a sweeper prior to our man getting sent off, so at one stage I was marking three Waterford backs, they weren’t marking me, I was marking them!”

Cian has recenlty moved to Dublin to take up a job, but in 2023 he hopes to play for Wolfe Tones with his two brothers, with next year being the first time that all three are eligible and that it’s possible.

Also on the Underdogs panel on Saturday were Cillian Fennessy (Clonlara), Evan McMahon (Feakle), Tommy Barry (Kilmaley) and Dan Kinnane (Ogonnelloe).

“I think we had the most from any county, so that was good for the Clare boys!” says Cian.

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.