Collins on trend for joust with local rivals
From Castlerea to Paris Fashion week, Roscommon ace sets his own agenda
It's the road less travelled. Or perhaps the road not travelled at all. But moving from the Roscommon full-back line to Paris fashion week is just part of life for Neil Collins.
He made it to Paris last year to take it all in and he'd like to do more of it. Right now he's working for Brown Thomas and studying for a Master's in Fashion Business. He also runs his own fashion label Cryptic Clique as well as giving his football the requisite time.
"I guess I probably am (in the minority)," Collins says. "I would say my lifestyle outside of sport is quite different. I guess I have to be very current in my interests outside sport because that's the industry I'm in and that's the interests that the people who I'm trying to promote my brand to, that's what they are interested in.
"So I've to stay very current outside of the game. I'd say my lifestyle is quite different but when I come back to playing with Roscommon I try and be as conservative as possible and get it done, which is challenging as well."
He likes playing the guitar too and has penned a few songs. These are not the pursuits that immediately come to mind when you think of a traditional full-back.
And while Collins agrees his unusual career choice brings a different kind of attention to his football, he's happy to keep church and state separate.
"It's gone beyond that now, when I play football I believe I'm a tough competitor and I'm very focused on football. I don't think it really matters what anybody does outside of that. I really don't think it matters what you are interested in once you are a capable competitor when training and playing.
"It's nobody's issue to be honest, nobody really cares what I do outside as long as I'm quite focussed when playing football."
It still feels like the championship is only cranking into gear but Roscommon will play their third championship game this weekend when Sligo come to the Hyde.
The near-disaster in New York was put behind them when Leitrim were comprehensively dismissed in Carrick-on-Shannon.
This weekend they welcome a Sligo side that dumped them out of the Connacht Championship 12 months ago. At the time then manager John Evans was talking about the team winning All-Irelands but defeat to Sligo put them in a tailspin that they couldn't pull out of and their year was over in the early part of July when Fermanagh chinned them.
"I guess looking back we were not playing well at the time, not training well at the time," Collins says, reflecting on the defeat to Sligo.
"Things were not ideal going into that game, but you try and blank that out. But Sligo beat us fair and square and quite comfortably, we wouldn't have that many complaints about where we were at before the game.
"I think we thought we were in a decent place, even though we weren't playing massively well."
And after a league campaign the hinted at the talent in the county, Collins admits they is a new level of expectation on them.
"So, there is a level of expectancy all right, but as players we need to just focus on literally one game at a time. We are not looking at what we can achieve over the next couple of years. We are literally focusing on every training now and every game we play because otherwise you are thinking too far ahead. You need to be quite present and focus on what you can do now, so that is very much what we are doing."
Collins sees the current set-up as having the right mix to achieve things where their talented young players are paired with the likes of Seanie McDermott, who has played in all four divisions in the league and lined out for the county for the 150th time against Leitrim.
The Castlerea man joined the panel in 2011 when Roscommon were reigning provincial champions but has looked on as Mayo took complete control out west.
"Galway and Roscommon didn't put themselves in a position where they were good enough in those last five years to beat Mayo.
"Maybe not the first two years, but certainly the last three years, Mayo have won Connacht quite comfortably. But we would like to think we are now at that level where we can make things harder for them."