Cian Dillon starts at full-back as Clare begin the defence of their League title in Cork this evening.
Last season saw Dillon co-captain the county to League glory along with Tony Kelly. “To win it after 38 years was a massive achievement and I remember back in the 1970s, the League was almost a Holy Grail and such a measurement of success at that point in time. Maybe it has diminished a little bit in value in the interim but there’s not many trophies around for people to win and for Clare to win the League is something that should never be undervalued.”
There have been changes since then, Dillon is no longer the captain and Sixmilebridge’s Davy Fitzgerald has stepped down as manager being replaced by Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor. Of Fitzgerald’s impact, Cian says “The passion he has, the drive unbelievable. When he came in at Clare we were well down in terms of the top tier of hurling. We were nowhere near it.
“Within two years Davy had us All-Ireland champions. The level of professionalism he brought to it was unbelievable. He gave us memories that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives. We thank him sincerely for that. I know the type of person he is, the type of manager he is and Wexford hurling will be in a healthy condition as long as he’s the manager.”
Dillon is one of the few players not to have already worked with Moloney and O’Connor, he is content with what they have brought to the table so far. “I think the new managers are emphasising different things, definitely. They do focus on certain aspects. They’re big on making sure our skill level is as high as it can be and transferring that to game situations. That’s one change I can spot.
“We’re looking to hurl off the cuff really, express ourselves, play with that freedom and do what’s natural. The likes of Podge and Tony Kelly can score from anywhere on their day so it’s giving them the license to do that and the freedom to express themselves. One change I can see is that they’re giving players license to see things themselves and go for little channels and holes if they appear. Lads seem to be responding to that well so far so it’s a good sign going forward”, the Ballycar based primary school teacher noted.
“Their working relationship is incredible. They’re highly influential businessmen as well so how they get the time to do it and their level of efficiency is something you’d have to admire. Their level of detail and planning is incredible and that feeds into the players straight away. But mainly it’s their appetite for success. They’ve had a lot of years at under 21 level and they’ve achieved a huge amount, something that hasn’t been done in Clare in the past. They’ve got serious hunger to bring that forward onto senior level”, the county defender added.