PODGE Collins is on his way back to the Clare senior hurling panel for 2016, but he will also remain with the county footballers.
Manager, Davy Fitzgerald has refused to confirm or deny that the Cratloe man, who is currently recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury, is about to rejoin the hurling panel but The Clare Champion has learned this is the position.
“No comment” was the manager’s response, when asked about this and about speculation as to who has been let go from the panel, which is expected to begin training next month.
Collins, one of the stars of the 2013 All-Ireland success, after which he was honoured as an All-Star and was shortlisted for the Hurler Of The Year award, was omitted from the hurling panel last year, after the management opted not to include any dual players.
The return of Collins to the hurling panel, while still being available to the senior football side – which is managed by his father, Colm – represents a major change on the part of the hurling backroom team.
In the opening round of the senior hurling championship in May, Collins suffered a cruciate knee injury, which ended his season. There is little doubt but that he was a huge loss to Cratloe, who were stripped of both county senior titles at the quarter-final stage of the championship.
Speculation is rife that there will be significent changes to the panel, which is expected to be announced shortly. Amongst those believed to be omitted are Cillian Duggan (Clooney-Quin), Conor Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Cathal O’Connell (Clonlara), Shane McNamara (Clooney-Quin), Daire Keane and Michael O’Malley (Kilmaley).
Amongst those believed to be joining the panel are Clonlara duo, Micheal O’Loughlin and Ian Galvin and Inagh-Kilnamona’s David Fitzgerald, who played at full-back on the U-21 team this year.
There is also much speculation as to the make-up of the management team for 2016 but again the manager – who attended Sunday’s hurling final, along with selectors, Louis Mulqueen and Michael Browne – refused to make any comment.
Fergal Lynch, a member of the panel that won All-Ireland honours two years ago, after which he retired from intercounty hurling, only to join the management team, is believed to have stepped down.
When pressed on a possible return to the management team of Paul Kinnerk, Fitzgerald again declined to comment. When announcing that the St Caimin’s teacher was stepping down from his role as team coach 12 months ago because he wanted to travel, the manager indicated that his sabattical was for one year.
Meanwhile, Clare’s league campaign will begin in February, with a home tie against Offaly. In Round 2, they will be away to Wexford, followed by another away game to Laois before finishing with two home games to Kerry and Limerick.
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor