Banner will miss 'Podge'
O'Donnell predicts Collins will return in future
PREDICTABLY, Shane O'Donnell calls the loss of Podge Collins to Clare's hurlers next year "huge."
More surprisingly, he says he fully expects his now former team mate and close friend to follow through with his plan to play football exclusively at inter-county level in 2015 but also, the 2013 All-Ireland hurling final replay hero predicted that Collins would hurl for Clare again in the future.
"Podge always wanted to play football as well and his father has facilitated that," O'Donnell told the Herald.
"Maybe he just wants to give football a year and see how that goes. He's adamant that there's a fantastic football set up there as well.
"I'd say he just wants to give that a try and see where they can go, to give it his full attention and then next year maybe, reassess the situation on both or one or the other."
On Monday, it emerged that following a rumored ultimatum from Clare senior hurling management, Collins chose to play for his father, Colm, manager of the county footballers in 2015.
Both he and his brother, Seán (who was not expected to be on the hurling squad next season) played both this year but after losing to Cork in the Munster semi-final Davy Fitzgerald openly questioned the viability of a dual mandate at senior level.
"There are a few lads that think they can play both codes -you can't do it," he said.
Now, the move to persuade Collins - an All Star and Hurler of the Year nominee last year - to devote his energies exclusively to one sport appears to have backfired on the hurling side of the county.
And O'Donnell, the hat-trick star from Clare's replayed victory over Cork last year says he never would have played in a final were it not for the exceptional consistency of Collins.
"He was unbelievable. In every game, he was incredible," O'Donnell recalls.
"I don't think people comprehend how difficult it is to play three or four good games in a row, to be that consistent.
"To keep it going, game after game, especially when people are starting to expect that of you, to still be able to put out those performances…what he did that year was unbelievable.
"You could argue easily that he was the reason he got to the final. He'll be a huge loss."
For O'Donnell, it's been a year of frustration.
In a season when he was either going to embellish or erode the hero status that comes with scoring a hat-trick as an unknown in an All-Ireland final, he did neither.
Two related hamstring injuries and a hairline fracture of his finger meant that the sight of O'Donnell on the Clare bench became a familiar one for Clare supporters and source of their regret when the summer ended unexpectedly to Wexford.
Of the injury, he concedes: "It's been extremely frustrating. But there's not too much I can do about it. You can say 'I shouldn't have done this or that and I wouldn't have been injured.'
"But you can only deal with the cards you get dealt. Obviously I'll look back at it and think 'if only.'
"At the start of the year, my hurling was going really well. Everything seemed to be going really well; the team and my individual performances and then I just got hit with a bad hamstring tear and everything went downhill from there.
"So I was on the bench watching games rather than playing."
Which didn't exactly halt the hero worship either.
"I still get recognised and that type of thing. But it's not to the same extent. And I'm delighted," O'Donnell explains, but adds: "Getting injured…it kind of prolonged it.
"Unless I was playing very well everyone would have just forgotten about me. But I was seen as this….
"Like, if I played badly, everyone would say 'Ah he just got lucky last year.'
"But because I was on the bench and couldn't play, people were saying 'if only we had Shane.'
"Which wasn't the case at all really. What happened last September prolonged all summer just because I wasn't on the pitch."
He trained the Tuesday and Thursday before the Antrim semi-final and thus played but 0-2 is a measly return for a forward with such a blood lust in a team that scores 4-28.
"If we'd have been knocked out of both, we'd have been licking our wounds a bit a looking back on a very unsuccessful year but if you told us three or four years ago that we'd been in an All-Ireland Under 21 final in 2014, we'd think it was fantastic.
"It's just that last year, everything was upped. You can sometimes look back and say, 'we should have beaten this team or that team,' but an All-Ireland final…they don't come around very often so they have to be relished.
"We know what they can do if you let them hurl," he adds of Wexford. "The tackling, the work rate, they'll never give up."