A FEATURE OF Clare’s opening round Munster SHC victory over Waterford two weeks ago was Shane O’Donnell’s strong performance, despite his absence during the league.
O’Donnell returned from his eight-month stint in Harvard as part of his PhD studies prior to the championship and showed no signs of rust in the 1-20 to 0-22 victory at Walsh Park.
He turned over a Deise defender to set-up John Conlon for the game’s only goal in the opening quarter and was a menace throughout.
O’Donnell’s partnership with Conlon in the full-forward line is central to the Banner’s gameplan, where Podge Collins withdraws to the half-forward line to leave the dangerous duo with plenty of space inside.
Collins had no concerns that the Eire Og star, who famously scored 3-3 in the 2013 All-Ireland final, would return to the county set-up out of shape.
“He came back in great condition in fairness to him,” he says.
“A lot of people go away for six months from sport where you’ve got an S&C coach, nutritionist and coaching staff but Shane looked after himself very well. I had no doubts that he wouldn’t come back in any other way than he did.
“He came back in better shape probably than he left. He’s a good level of maturity. He’s 25, it’s not like you’re sending a 19-year-old over to America.
“He knew going over there he couldn’t do the dog on it but I don’t know if he’ll thank me for saying this but he’s a celiac as well so he eats very carefully.
O’Donnell in action against Waterford in the first round of the Munster SHC.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
“That probably helps as well to be honest because you can’t just go for burger and chips which is very convenient when you’re in Boston.
“He had to look after himself and he did and he came back in good shape.”
Collins himself has enjoyed something of a renaissance. He agrees last summer was his best season since Clare’s Liam MacCarthy Cup win six years ago.
Injury, suspension, a stint as a dual county player and one season solely spent with the footballers were all factors, but he’s firmly back to his best and Clare are among the frontrunners to win this year’s All-Ireland.
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“I think we played a nice style of hurling and we were consistent,” he says of last season. “Galway were very strong against us and we started both games very well.
“We were chasing our tails for the first 20 or 30 minutes but when we got into those games I thought they were very good games of hurling for the spectator and to be involved in.
“Unfortunately we came out the wrong side of the result but it was definitely progress and hopefully we’ll build on that next year.”
Clare football manager Colm Collins.
Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
It’s a busy weekend in the Collins household with Podge facing Tipperary on Sunday, while his father Colm manages the Clare footballers against Kerry in the Munster semi-final on Saturday.
“You’ve got this group of players: Gary Brennan, Gordon Kelly, Cathal O’Connor and Kevin Hartnett, and just what they give for training and what they put into Clare GAA is just unbelievable,” he says of his father’s squad.
“They’re role models, there’s no doubt about it. The amount of effort they put in, it’s no surprise that they’ve done as well as they have done to get to where they are. There is another level. There’s a jump up.
“It’s very hard to make it. When you look at counties like Kerry and Dublin, it’s very hard to close that gap. Over the last ten years, they’ve just been on another level really.”
The clash between the Premier and Clare last summer saw Jake Morris crashed a shot off the post in the 65th minute. Within seconds, the Banner counter-attacked and Collins released Colm Galvin who rattled the net to cut Tipp’s advantage to a single point.
It was a defining moment in the championship.
Six Point Swing! Jake Morris from Tipperary hits the post, Clare go down the field and score a fine goal through Ian Galvin. pic.twitter.com/dXb3nUQaJV
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 10, 2018
In the space of 18 seconds, Tipperary went from almost moving seven clear to seeing their advantage reduced to the minimum. Clare would go on to win the game thanks to a score from Collins and two from Peter Duggan. They advanced from Munster while Tipperary crashed out in the round-robin. Fine margins.
“To be honest you don’t really think about much when you’re looking out on the field,” says Collins.
“I didn’t really realise how close that ball was to going in. I saw Jake Morris getting the ball by himself and I’m like, ‘Oh no’. And the next thing the ball is in John Conlon’s hand and I’m just running as hard as I can.
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