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"A level you reach in your career only a couple of times" | Pat O'Connor on Tony Kelly

Would you go to see a great player rather than watch your own club? That's the influence Tony Kelly is having on Clare and the game of hurling. 

17 points against Limerick. 13 against Laois. 1-15 against Wexford.

The 2013 Hurler of the Year is in contention to win that award again, no matter where Clare finish in the Championship pecking order.

At the launch of the All Ireland Championship, Kelly's colleague Pat O'Connor had nothing but glowing words for his team-mate, but also revealed that the quality of Kelly's craft is unmissable.

"He's a joy to watch. I was talking to a guy yesterday and the way he was talking about it - he said that if a club match that his club were playing in clashed with a club match that Ballyea were playing in, he'd go and watch Tony Kelly just to see the pure abandon that's in his game. He's such confidence in what he's doing. That is a level you reach in your career only a couple of times and it's fierce hard to maintain. In fairness to Tony, to do it three days in a row is incredible and it's up to us to keep him going."

These are strange times, and GAA players are no different, playing behind closed doors in a pandemic.

For O'Connor, that means adjustment.

"I've really missed the crowd welcoming you onto the field, the crowd acclaiming a great score or a great play. If there was a crowd, they would have all spilled onto the field at Portlaoise on Saturday. I really do miss that. I don't know has it 'taken from it' is the right thing to say, but it makes you realise that the fans and the crowd add so much colour and so much sound and noise to the day. Then it's into the dressing room and we have to try and limit contact as much as we can. We've tried to use our heads. We have some guys coming from Dublin and we like to give them precedence to have a shower. In training, there's no showers. Another thing I have really missed is the connection between the players. Particularly at training, I like sitting around and having the craic. It's very much into your cars and away home. It's the price we have to pay. We are lucky enough that we can get out and express ourselves and do what we enjoy, but it's come at that cost."

A place in the last four is on offer this Saturday when Clare play Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Tubber defender O'Connor says Clare cannot leave a chance of reaching the semi-final behind them.

"If we take the field on Saturday and we're not up for it I'll be very disappointed. We have to back it up. Take last year's Championship; we started well, played Tipperary and Limerick in the space of seven days, were blown away, and then finished well. We have to find consistency. We have to find a base level which is a non-negotiable. It will be hammer and tongs on Sunday, I can assure you that."

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