Hurling and camogie

No-one deserved to lose momentous semi-final showdown says Clare ace John Conlon

Neil Loughran

DESPITE a couple of taps on the shoulder from Croke Park press people, John Conlon wasn't in the mood for stopping in the moments after Saturday's helter-skelter All-Ireland semi-final clash with Galway.

Adrenaline still coursing through his veins, the talismanic Clare forward wore a wide smile as he defied attempts to curtail his interview, gleefully looking back at the 90-plus minutes of mayhem that had just taken place.

A last-gasp leveller from substitute Jason McCarthy secured another bite at the cherry for the Bannermen, but in truth they may well have left Dublin reflecting on what might have been as the injury-ravaged All-Ireland champions looked there for the taking.

But Conlon is happy enough to go again, and happy enough to be heading for Thurles next Sunday for more of the same.

“It was fantastic stuff, it was exhilarating,” said the Clonara ace.

“Even at the end there, [Galway goalkeeper] James Skehill and myself were in around the square with a minute to go and we just said ‘no-one deserves to lose this'.

“Thankfully Jason got that great score at the end. I suppose it had similarities to Domhnall O'Donovan's score [in the drawn 2013 All-Ireland final], lads working it up the field and to have that composure and leadership to go on and do that with the last puck of the ball meant a lot to us.

“Hopefully it will give us a push for next week.”

The Banner will be hoping to avoid a similar start when they take the field at Semple Stadium, however, having found themselves nine points down after just 16 minutes as Galway came flying out of the traps.

And Conlon admits they were aware that the reigning All-Ireland champions would try and go for the jugular early on.

“Things didn't look good but we had said during the week that could happen. Galway are that good, they blew us off the field for the first 15-20 minutes,” continued the 29-year-old.

“We were fairly sloppy, maybe we were a bit nervous about being in Croke Park, but we got our composure. Tony [Kelly] was moved to midfield and he made a big difference, he sort of drew them out and got a couple of big scores when we needed them and got us on the scoreboard and things started to tick.

“We knew at half-time we were well in the game and that we'd have our purple patch and we drove on when it mattered.”

And it was after the break that Conlon finally sparkled into life having been starved of any meaningful possession in the first half.

Dropping out around the half-forward line and pulling marker Daithi Burke out to the wings, he finished up with four points from play.

Much of the pre-match talk had surrounded Conlon's battle with Burke, who shrugged off concerns about an ankle injury to play the full game, and the focus is already turning to the renewal of that rivalry on Sunday.

“It's a battle every week.

“I had Liam Ryan against Wexford and that was a big battle, it was no different with Daithi. He's a fantastic hurler and a fantastic full-back. I relished it because that's where you want to be – you want to be up against the best and test yourself against the best.

“I'm looking forward to next week and I'm sure he is too.”

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