Friday 21 July 2017

Dual status no longer viable as schedule forces Collins' hand

Podge's commitment to Clare hurlers due to fixture 'unsustainability'

Clare football boss Colm Collins celebrates with sons Podge and Sean (right) after the team’s Division 3 NFL final win over Kildare, but Podge has opted to focus on hurling (far left) for 2017. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Clare football boss Colm Collins celebrates with sons Podge and Sean (right) after the team’s Division 3 NFL final win over Kildare, but Podge has opted to focus on hurling (far left) for 2017. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Podge Collins has confirmed his decision to solely commit to the Clare hurlers in 2017 after weeks of speculation.

Collins had indicated some time ago that he would be concentrating on one code only and would be announcing his decision after Cratloe's club championship campaign had ended.

Padraic Collins, Clare. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Padraic Collins, Clare. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

He confirmed to the Irish Independent that it would be hurling only in 2017, citing the "unsustainability" of the fixture list as the main reason for the decision.

Collins' choice looks like it will ensure that there will be no dual player operating at Liam MacCarthy Cup level next year.

Cork's Aidan Walsh and Wexford's Lee Chin are among the high-profile players who have attempted to balance both codes at the highest level but quickly felt the ground shifting beneath them.

Mayo footballer Keith Higgins played for his county hurlers as they won a Nicky Rackard Cup title in June before reaching a football All-Ireland final and replay later in the year, incorporating 13 Championship matches in all.

Collins was a dual Clare player for two seasons, 2014 and 2016, either side of a year as a Clare footballer after then hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald indicated he wouldn't accommodate dual players.

Collins was drawn to the Clare footballers the year after he won an All-Ireland hurling medal by the fact that his father Colm had taken over as manager.

Under Colm Collins Clare have made sustained progress that took them to this year's All-Ireland quarter-final, where they lost to Kerry.

Podge Collins' season was cut short in 2015 when he suffered a cruciate ligament injury. But by 2016 Fitzgerald has re-evaluated his stance on dual players and Collins was invited back to the fold.

He enjoyed the best of both worlds during the League, winning a Division One title with the hurlers and a Division Three title with the footballers.

But the Championship was more demanding with double involvement on one weekend in July when he played for the footballers against Roscommon on a Saturday before turning out with the hurlers against Galway in an All-Ireland quarter-final the next day.

He admitted the programme of League fixtures next year had helped to shape his decision but did not rule out a return to the footballers at some stage in the future.

"There were just too many clashes in the League," he acknowledged.

His full-time return to Clare hurling is timely as Conor McGrath will miss the League campaign as he recovers from shoulder surgery that will leave him out until at least April.

Prolonged

Defender David McInerney is also unavailable for the early part of the year as he goes travelling but also gives a prolonged back injury some added time to recover.

Collins' Clare colleague Tony Kelly admitted yesterday that Collins' decision was "a big plus".

"From talking to him, he just wanted to concentrate on one of them and give his all. It is hard combining the two, especially the way it's gone. When you're training for football and training for hurling, you're trying to give your all to both," said Kelly.

"He probably thought that he couldn't give the energy levels or commitment to both. It's massive.

"I know from talking to him he just wanted to concentrate on one and try and have a right good year, especially coming back from the injury he had last year, the cruciate. To maintain [standards] over a period of time, it is difficult. He's probably coming into that stage of his career, he wants to hit the heights, get the best performance and I think he's trying to do that now by just playing one."

Kelly always felt that if Collins was to choose again he would pick hurling.

"I'd say if he was to pick one, he'd have gone with the hurling. Maybe just because that's what he started out with in 2012, 2013. I know he's an equally good footballer. He probably could have gone either way, with his father it is a difficult decision.

"Even to have him back full-time around training, the kind of character he is, he's invaluable, just to be there for training and the experience he has."

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