Sunday 23 October 2016

'Smaller isn't an option' for O'Donnell as he seeks gym help to compete with the giants of hurling

Clare’s Shane O’Donnell. Pic: Sportsfile
Clare’s Shane O’Donnell. Pic: Sportsfile

Shane O'Donnell will always be associated with the will-o'-the-wisp version of 2013 - the teen sensation who scored 3-3 in the All-Ireland final replay against Cork.

But the Clare forward knows he won't always enjoy surreal days like that. You certainly can't expect that type of space against Kilkenny, the Banner's next opponents and still "the benchmark", he says.

O'Donnell is facing a foot injury race to play in Sunday's Allianz Hurling League semi-final at Thurles.

But while he strives to get the body right for this weekend, he accepts that he faces another longer-term challenge - to bulk up for survival.

His manager, Davy Fitzgerald, had suggested in January that O'Donnell found it "very tough to get frees" and was "getting absolutely killed" when he got the ball.

A call for more protection, obviously, but the player himself admits: "Maybe I could do with being bigger in general as a lone full-forward. It's dangerous for me to voice an opinion on it.

"I have some sort of pace, without being the paciest. When there is that kind of space, it's very fine margins."

The Éire Óg clubman is no S&C addict. "I wouldn't be a major fan of the gym - I'd prefer to be out hurling," he says.

"But it's getting to the stage where if I come up against Paul Murphy and it's a high ball - if I haven't been in the gym at some stage in the year, I've no chance really.

"Lads are just bigger in general. Not compared to football really but lads are bigger. Strength and conditioning is coming much more into it.

"Being smaller isn't really an option. To a degree. I'm not going to be John Conlon's size any time soon ... I don't think it's a problem. There is room for both size hurlers in every team. Lads like John Conlon - big, really able to hurl. Then we've a decent few smaller hurlers."

Kilkenny, of course, aren't just physically big.

"People think that Kilkenny's style of simplistic, but it's not at all," O'Donnell maintains. "The tracking, the working that those lads do. TJ Reid is one of the best defenders in the game. He's incredible, the blocks and hooks he puts in. To say that they're a simple route-one team is not fair to their whole establishment. They're an incredible working team as well as scoring."

O'Donnell had been carrying a foot injury since the Offaly game in February.

"I've had it strapped since and cumulatively it's got worse and worse until I got it scanned before the Limerick game - it kind of confirmed that there was something up. Davy just said to take a break after the Limerick game and that's what I did. It's almost back to 100pc," he confirmed.

O'Donnell trained on Tuesday but was facing an MRI today. "I'm fighting to get back for this game more than any other," he concluded.

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