Jamesie O'Connor: Clare extended the olive branch to Nicky O'Connell, but I'd be surprised if Davy O'Halloran returned
Former Clare hurler Jamesie O'Connor has welcomed the return of Nicky O'Connell to the playing panel but admits the whole saga was handled badly.
O'Connell last night returned to the panel almost exactly a month after leaving it in controversial circumstances.
The Irish Independent understands he was welcomed back after a recovery session at The Inn in Dromoland and subsequently apologised to the squad after team manager Davy Fitzgerald made it clear that he had no objection to O'Connell's return.
Clare's management and players previously issued a statement questioning the detail of a newspaper interview given by another player, Davy O'Halloran, in which he outlined the reasons for his and O'Connell's departure from the squad.
Double All-Ireland winner O'Connor says that the return of O'Connell immediately boosts the strength of the panel, particularly after Colm Galvin will be unavailable this summer after moving to America.
"The reality is Nicky O'Connell is a good player," he told Independent.ie. "In the All-Ireland Final of 2013 in the drawn game, he was the guy that picked out the pass to Donal O'Donovan for the score to earn a replay. He is very highly regarded, knows the panel well and is a popular guy."
"It happens in every county that there is a certain amount of fluidity within the panels and if management feel at the end of the league that there is somebody they can bring in, maybe playing well for their club, and can offer something for the championship, that's what they will do.
"If management felt extending the olive branch was a way that they could improve Clare's chances heading into the championship, then that's the decision they have made."
The four-time All Star conceded however that the public spat reflected poorly on the county.
"From a Clare perspective, the whole thing was handled badly. You can't pretend that this didn't happen and sweep it under the carpet."
The Sunday Independent columnist added that O'Connell's silence following the controversy probably helped his return
"Nicky has very much kept his counsel on this from when the story broke initially."
"Davy was a bit more vocal about what happened whereas Nicky kept his powder dry on the issue. Maybe Davy has burnt a few bridges with the management that Nicky hadn't. That's a decision for the Clare management."
"Given the storm it created at the time, I'd be surprised if he was brought back."
Since the pair departed the panel there has been a huge amount of debate as to the sacrifices players are expected to make at inter-county level, with Joe Brolly famously describing the modern GAA players as "indentured slaves", but Sky Sports analyst says panels will do whatever it takes to get their hands on silverware in September.
"If you look at the Donegal players, Jim McGuinness confiscated their phones. Yet if you were to ask them would they trade anything they did for the success they achieved I don't think they would for a second."
"These Clare players have tasted success in September and have a lot of underage success too so they know what it's like. They want more of it and if that means doing whatever it takes and is asked of them, that's what they will do."
O'Connell has been on the Clare panel since 2010 and it is understood the Clonlara man has now chosen to distance himself from O'Halloran's allegations about being exposed to "humiliating" treatment as part of a disciplining process for going on a night out two days before a league game.
Clare suffered relegation in the National League, but hurled well enough in the final play-off against Kilkenny to suggest they can be a force in the forthcoming championship and O'Connor is confident of their chances with the Munster championship looming.
"The way they finished the league they will take a lot of positives," he says. "The win with Dublin and the way they went toe-to-toe with Kilkenny in Nowlan Park and ironically enough after all the controversy probably go into the championship in a better position that say Limerick, or even Galway."
"Despite this controversy, it will be the championship ultimately by which they will be judged."