John Conlon was eighteen when he first got his hands on the Canon Hamilton, he’s twenty seven and hoping to get reacquainted with the Canon this time as captain.
Losing to Sixmilebridge in the County Final last year was “bitterly disappointing” for Conlon and co, they know they didn’t do themselves justice on the biggest day and on Sunday they have a chance to make amends. In 2015 he lined out in the unfamiliar setting of centre-back, despite being out of position it has helped improve his game as a forward.
“It was a good experience in the backs, I learned a lot, how to upset a centre-back or a full-back but I’ve always played in the forwards since I was a little young lad and I like it up there and I enjoy it, it’s great to be providing scores and scoring and trying my best for the team”.
An All-Ireland winner with Clare in 2013, John is full of appreciation for the role the local GAA club plays in the community of Clonlara. “The club is the focal point of any parish, we’d have no friends if we didn’t have the hurling club in the local parish and we’d have nothing to do, you go out and you try your best for the local people and winning with your club and winning a county final is very special because it’s a rare thing they’re hard to win and when they are won they’re really special, at times you maybe take it for granted that you’re going to be there every year”.
At eighteen years old Conlon was boy when Clonlara won their second ever Clare SHC title, he’s a man now and says he assumed he would be competing in County Finals every year after collecting his first and only senior championship to date.
“When you’re young you’re naive and you think you’re going to be there every year, I thought we’d get back there nearly every year, we were getting to semi-final after semi-final and couldn’t get over the line. Last year we were lucky enough to get to the county final and this year we’re back again so hopefully we’ll be lucky enough this year and come out on the right side and you need that bit of luck and thankfully we’re having it at the moment and hopefully it’ll come again on Sunday”.
His county teammates Colm Galvin and Cathal Tots O’Connell are without a Clare SHC medal, it’s something their teammates often remind them of. “The slag there off some lads in training would be ‘Jesus Colm and Tots you haven’t a county medal so you can’t say anything’ some of the older lads tend to be slagging them, there’s massive talent here but it’s all about bringing that talent and the nucleus together, we’ve made massive strives this year we’ve developed a new gym in the club the management that we’ve got in have been super and so organised, they’ve laid down the foundations and we’ve strived to get back here and it’s up to us as a team to go out and do the club and management and more important ourselves justice”.
To win Clonlara must bring a togetherness mixed with a high level of workrate and intensity in order to success according to their captain. “Unless you bring it all together and all work together and focus as a group you’re going nowhere, hopefully we can bring everyone together and work as a unit on Sunday, if we come with that mentality of workrate and intensity I think we’ll come out on the right side I know Ballyea will come with that and they’re there for the first time in a while and they’ll be looking forward to it as much as we are”.
A primary school teacher in St Aidans N.S. in Shannon, John loves driving through the village to see the flags and bunting decorated all over Clonlara. Teaching in Shannon allows him to escape from the hype for a while.
“It’s always grand to be away from it, it gives you an aul chill when you go through the village and see the flags and the bunting out, even tonight you see the enthusiasm that’s around with the children and how much they want to win. I remember when I was young and Clare winning the finals in 95 and 97, I remember being in Shannon at the airport to meet them, those little things are massive things that stand out in my memory and hopefully if we can win on Sunday we can add to the children’s memories here and push them on to be as good as they can be for our club and hopefully being county players and stars in the future”.
He will lead his club behind the Tulla Pipe Band in Cusack Park on Sunday but if he was to climb the steps and accept the Canon Hamilton it would be the ultimate honour. “It would probably be the most satisfying thing of my career to date, I’m lucky enough to have won a few things throughout my career, obviously an All-Ireland medal was a massive thing and a League medal this year, winning with your club is a special thing and it’s extra special when you’re captain walking up the steps and you’re representing thirty two lads on a panel and management then you’ve forty and the whole parish that’d be a massive honour to me, my club and most importantly my family”.
Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden and Clare hurler John Conlon with a signed hurley for St Aidan’s School, Shannon. pic.twitter.com/vqkMjLj1I1
— Clare Courier (@clarecourier) October 6, 2016
Alfred Wordan an American astronaut who was the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. On a recent visit to Shannon, Al got to meet John Conlon, despite his hurling knowledge being as good as Conlon would have liked he still enjoyed their chat. “I don’t know if he knew much about the hurling to be honest with you, it was a lovely thing for the school to do to meet one of the twenty four people that have landed on the moon, that was a nice experience, he was trying to play with the hurley and sliotar but I don’t know if he understood it too well”.
Their conversation on hurling may not have been the most riveting but the other topics they touched on will be fitting for Sunday because for Conlon and Clonlara they will “shoot for the moon for even if they miss they will land among the stars”.