His injury problems hopefully in the past, Darach Honan poses a major threat for Clare
The Clonlara full-forward has always had huge promise and now is the time to deliver
Clare’s Darach Honan in action against Waterford’s Liam Lawlor during the Munster quarter-final at Thurles. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Come the leaf-turn end of summer in 1994, PJ Fitzpatrick ran his finger down the list of boys who were about to start junior infants in Clonlara NS where he’d been principal for 11 years. Though sited just eight miles outside Limerick city, Clonlara was – is – Clare to its toe-tips. The school was starting to grow and this was the first September they would enrol 20 boys, a number that had never been approached before.
One of the names held a special resonance for Fitzpatrick. When he became principal in 1983, he took over the reins from one Paddy Honan. Paddy Honan’s son Colm won back-to-back National Leagues with Clare in the 1970s and an All Star at wing-forward in 1978. And now, another generation along, one of the 20 boys coming into Clonlara NS was Darach Honan, grandson of the man who had preceded Fitzpatrick into the job.
Reading through the list, he was able to pick out 14 boys who came from families who were or had been involved in hurling in one way or another.
“I just looked at it and thought that we would never have a better chance of producing a team. I remember thinking that if we don’t do something with these, we’ll never do it with anyone.”
Sure enough, six years later Clonlara NS won a Clare Division One title. Fifth class boys Nicky O’Connell and John Conlon were in the team, as well as the usual scattering of sixth classers. But Fitzpatrick was right about the class coming up behind them. Despite being two years out of their age group, fourth class contributed a third of the team. Including, pedigree guaranteed, Darach Honan.
“He wasn’t the tallest in the class then but as he got taller, you could see his ability really starting to shine,” says Fitzpatrick. “Above all, as a tall lad, he had exceptional agility and balance. He had an ability right from the start to get out of tight spaces with one move. He did in football as well as in hurling.
“His father in later years did a lot of basketball work with him as well. He had a swerve of the body and an ability to shift from one foot to the other and get free.”
When Honan’s growth spurt came, it didn’t mess about. All- Ireland-winning Clare under-21 coach John Minogue remembers watching him play for Ardscoil Rís in the Harty Cup early in 2007 and even at just 16, Honan stood 6ft 4in. Although he was on the losing side that day in the Gaelic Grounds – against, as it happens, a St Flannan’s team for whom his erstwhile Clonlara NS team-mate Conlon was the star turn – Honan was about to enter the busiest period of his hurling life. Too busy, indeed.
“The one thing he had that you might not have expected of him because he was so tall was a great burst of pace,” says Minogue. “He went from zero to a hundred in no time at all. And I actually think that went against him because it meant he played an awful lot of hurling at a very young age. Clonlara went from intermediate to senior when he was still a minor.