As he prepares to face Tipperary in tonight’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21HC final, Clare attacker Conor McGrath has a strong insight into the Premier hurling psyche. His father Jim hails from the North Tipperary hurling stronghold of Toomevara which has added spice in the build-up to this game according to the Cratloe clubman.
“Yeah there’s a bit of banter about it alright,” laughs McGrath. “But he’s nearly a Clare man at this stage, he’s been at so many matches that I’ve been involved in for Clare. It’s going to be a great occasion. I was involved against Tipperary in a Munster U21 final two years ago but they got the better of us despite us going ahead early. That Tipperary team was exceptional really but we’re hoping to make up for that now.”
In the wake of Clare’s disappointing All-Ireland senior championship exit to Limerick in the qualifiers, McGrath has relished the chance to immerse himself in U21 activity as captain of the team.
“It was brilliant that the year was not finished and we’ve been back involved with the U21′s over the last few weeks. It helps you forget about that disappointment and get back into the swing of things. Between the senior and intermediate sides, our U21 players have all seen good game time this year which has helped our development. The semi-final win over Waterford was huge for us to get up and running. I don’t think it was an accurate description of Waterford’s ability that we won by so much but we were still glad of the victory.”
McGrath is one of several Cratloe players involved in the U21 setup with club mates Podge Collins and Conor Ryan both on the starting fifteen while Cathal McInerney and Enda Boyce are both amongst the substitutes. McGrath has previously shone on the U21 stage in 2009, a season when he was still in the minor ranks, but insists that a Munster title now would hold greater personal significance.
“Myself and Patrick O’Connor were involved then but weren’t really established, just coming on as substitutes in games. It’s nice now to be involved on a more major scale and it would mean we’d enjoy winning more. 2009 was very special and it was great to be involved in that scene. But the minors from the last couple of years, and Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney who managed them, have brought a great sense of success. We’re hoping to keep developing that and it’d be great to leave the underage ranks on a high note.”