Clare football manager Colm Collins once said that bringing his son Podge to a match when he was a child was like trying to hold a rabbit in his hand.
For those who saw Podge light up the All-Ireland hurling championship in 2013, it is a very fitting description. The Cratloe forward wasn't just part of a great team of hurlers, he was the spark that ignited them, their X-factor.
So seeing the now footballer walk tentatively into a Limerick restaurant just over a week after suffering a cruciate knee injury and knowing he won't be making an appearance in this summer's championship, was despairing.
But Collins' positivity is surprising and for someone who has dedicated his life to sport his attitude to the injury is remarkably logical.
"There are two things you have to deal with as a sports person, injury and losing," explains Collins.
"They affect every team throughout the season and they are the two things you have to accept as a sports person. I wasn't overly down about it. ok, it is unfortunate that I'm going to miss the rest of the summer and that is a disaster because I love playing, I just want to play matches. But there are so many worse things. It's only an injury, you are only missing games. You can come back as quick as you can and focus on next year."
Collins is a first cousin of Jamie Wall, the young Cork dual player who suffered a spinal injury that left him unable to walk. They are the same age, and very close. Collins (below) needs no reminding of how lucky he is to be just injured.
"If Jamie's thing hadn't happened I probably would have been more upset. Jamie not being able to walk at the moment, that is real, that affects a family and Jamie on a daily basis. When I think of that I know getting injured is no big deal. I can still get up out of bed in the morning and walk around. To be paralysed and to not know how long for, that is a real problem. My injury is on the smaller scale of things."
Collins' injury occurred in the first round of the Clare senior hurling championship against Ballyea. A clash with an opposition player sent him hobbling to full-forward and an ensuing attempt to score a point left him in excruciating pain. It wasn't until the following day when he woke up that he realised not only was missing the Cork game a possibility, but also that his season might be over. His father Colm drove him to Santry Sports Clinic for a scan; it was a very quiet journey.
"I was still hoping that it was just a bang and that it would be ok for the Cork game because that was a game I was really looking forward to ever since the draw was made. When the scan came out, it said complete ACL disruption, I didn't know what to make of it so I rang Dr Con Murphy and he said that it wasn't good. I knew then it was year over. The conclusion in Santry was that I did damage to the knee, the joint, the medial ligament, the LCL and also the ACL was completely torn."
As soon as the bad news was confirmed, Collins switched his focus to recovery and doing everything he can to get back playing as soon as possible. His surgery is scheduled for July 7 so between now and then it's prehab. While researching cruciate injuries he read that if he builds up the muscles in his knee before the operation then his recovery may be quicker so he is doing just that.
Although he lives in an apartment in Limerick city that is close to where he works, he currently stays at home in Cratloe with his parents so he can cycle the 22km round trip to work, stopping off in his apartment for a shower. He goes to the gym a couple of times every day and also finds time when he can for pool sessions.
Having an understanding employer like AIB is vital and of course they are a company who are no strangers to dealing with high-profile cruciate injuries to staff members. Kerry's Colm Cooper and Colm O'Neill of Cork are both employees at the bank.
"They have been great; if I need to see the surgeon in Dublin they will facilitate me once I give them enough notice. And there are enough hours in the morning and evening to get my prehab done. Colm and the Gooch have both been on to me. Colm suffered three cruciate injuries and to see how well and strong he is playing is unbelievable. I have got letters, tweets, messages, so much support. I nearly feel like saying there is no loss, it's just a year out of sport."
Today when Clare line out against Cork in the Munster semi-final there will be no Podge Collins in the saffron and blue. But when the season finishes and winter looms ,seeing him back where he belongs in 2016 will be something to look forward to. A player with his drive and determination will no doubt be better than ever.
Sunday Indo Sport