Seán Stack was responsible for the Clonlara hurling team, which reached the county final in 2015 and lost to Sixmilebridge. At the beginning of the year he came up with the idea of using John Conlon as the team’s central defender. Stack played that position with honors for Clare in the 1970s and 1980s, but the game had changed dramatically since then.
Because of this, almost six years later, he is encouraged to join Clare Conlon for today’s league game against Antrim seen in Corrigan Park in the same position.
The move offers an interesting perspective on the first appearance of Brian Lohan’s second responsible season in which Conlon was an All-Star striker in 2018. He suffered a cruciate ligament injury in March 2020 and is now 31 years old. However, his fitness and preparation were always meticulous.
“It’s refreshing for me to see,” says Stack. “To see that Brian saw where we had weaknesses. When I was at Clonlara, I played John as a center-back and was scourged for it, but I think he’s an absolute center-back.
“Clare needed stability in our backs and that was our Achilles heel. Funnily enough, in Clare we always found that we could come back from the road and forward were less plentiful. Now it seems to be the other way around. I am very happy that it has been recognized. “
The return of the slingshots provides a temporary distraction from recent tensions in Clare over a number of issues, including the multi-vicious center of excellence in Caherlohan that the slingers have found inappropriate.
Another county board meeting is expected next Tuesday evening to get answers to questions raised at the previous meeting. Concerns raised by delegates include Caherlohan, the availability of accounts for the fan club between 2012 and 2016, and the terms of District Secretary Pat Fitzgerald’s current contract. At the last meeting, Fitzgerald claimed he was the victim of a “witch hunt” over questions about Caherlohan.
These problems must temporarily take a back seat in order to achieve the immediate goal of a successful league start against the newly promoted Antrim, who also has the Last year’s Joe McDonagh Final was the winner. This success means that this year they will play in the Leinster Championship for the first time since 2015.
While today won’t provide conclusive evidence of Conlon’s suitability for the center-back, Stack is optimistic about a long-term fix for a position that has remained unresolved since Seanie McMahon’s resignation in 2006. Says Stack. “He reads the game well and is very physically strong.”
Concerns about the decision to use Conlon in the position surfaced after Clonlara lost the 2015 final. “I’ve had a lot of dormant critics surfacing,” says Stack. “Strikers with pace are what every defender fears and John wasn’t overwhelmed with pace. He was a great striker at Clare, but we have a target in Aron Shanagher. “
Six years ago, Conlon played only a few games with Clonlara as a younger hurler in the central defender outside of this season. Stack is keen on Clare’s chances of making an impact this year. Inspired by Tony Kelly, they made it to last year’s league final and bounced back from their Limerick loss to get past Laois and Wexford before an injury to Kelly paved the way for their fall against Waterford.
“I really think we have tons of good players. They’re there or near without a doubt, “adds Stack.
Conlon suffered a serious injury while training at UL and couldn’t make it back to Clare’s last championship game in the All-Ireland quarter-finals in November.
He won an All Ireland U21 medal in 2009 and made his senior senior debut that same year. He was a star of the team that won the MacCarthy Cup in 2013. Only three of this starting team are ready for today’s game, Kelly and Shane O’Donnell the others.
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