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Cratloe Manager Colm Collins with sons Sean, David and Podge. Photograph by Natasha Barton

Appreciating family fortunes central to Collins’ tenth final

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They’ve been there from the very start of the Cratloe revolution but brothers Sean and Podge Collins are determined to cap off a memorable decade and a half at the top table of Clare GAA by lifting the Jack Daly Cup for a third time on Sunday.
It has been a real family affair for the Collins as having shared in the club’s greatest achievement of a first-ever senior hurling and football championship double in 2014 alongside youngest brother David and father Colm, Sean and Podge have also had the rare honour of winning national senior honours together for their county in both codes as well.
A breakthrough 2013 All-Ireland Senior Hurling crown was followed by a 2016 National Football League Division 3 title back in Croke Park but while it all has been quite a whirlwind experience, it’s only recently that Podge has begun to fully appreciate the privilege of being able to play alongside his siblings.
“To be honest because we’ve played together since we were so young and we were all around the same age, it was never a big deal for us.
“I mean when Conor Ryan came back this year, the narrative that he wanted to play with Diarmuid, that was such a big deal for him and it also hit home with us how fortunate we have been to have got to play together for so many years.
“From when we started playing first all the way up along we were just so used to playing with each other, it was so natural and Colm was always coaching us too since we were probably Under 6s so It’s something that maybe we took for granted from time to time. But when other people like Conor are talking about playing with Diarmuid and how important that is to him, we’ve definitely started to appreciate it more.”
That extends to their father too as Colm has not only been their sole manager for Cratloe’s flagship side but also throughout their Clare football careers.
“I suppose that is unique for most people but it’s something that has been quite natural for us as maybe we took it for granted sometimes because he has always been there year after year.” Admitted Sean.
“I think he’s really enjoying it this year since finishing up with Clare. Maybe when he was in charge of Clare, it can be difficult to be over Cratloe as well as you’re managing players for Clare but playing against them for Cratloe so I think he’s a bit more relaxed this year for Cratloe.
“He did his ten years, really enjoyed it and one hundred per cent he’ll really miss it as he absolutely loves Clare football but look he can be proud of the stint that he put in anyway.”
All the Collins can as Sean and Podge prepare for their tenth county senior final this Sunday, fittingly split evenly between hurling and football which inevitably throws up the biggest source of debate surrounding Cratloe that if they stuck to one code, they would have had much more than two titles in either.
“I’m personally very grateful that we’ve won four senior titles.” Responds Sean. “I mean there are some outstanding footballers and hurlers in Clare that haven’t won any so I know that there’s a narrative out there that if we concentrated on one code, we could have won more but we love playing both equally.
“It’s even talked about at the moment as some people are saying that we’re in the football final because we’ve had two weeks between games now that we’re out of the hurling but in my opinion I think it’s about the breaks each year.
“I mean there are some clubs in Clare who concentrate on one code that have been hit by injuries to key players this year. I look at Cooraclare and the injuries that they’ve had or Kilmurry Ibrickane as Darren Hickey did his cruciate so you just don’t know what will happen each year.
“Some years we actually got momentum playing week on week but this year it has fallen this way and that’s just the way it goes.”
With the growing age profile of their pack, did you think that contesting another senior county final was out of reach at any stage Podge?
“I suppose at the back of your mind, you might think about that at the start of the season but I think every championship takes on a life of its own and even years when we mightn’t have felt like we’ve been the best team in the championship in either hurling or football, we might have ended up in a county final.
“Vice versa too, I remember in ’09 I think against Wolfe Tones in hurling, they hit the crossbar with a penalty. Now it was so close in terms of qualification from that group that had it went under the crossbar we were out and if it went over the bar we were out. But it struck the crossbar and we got through and ended up winning that championship so I really do believe that every championship takes on a life of its own and to be honest every year you’re competing, you always feel like you’ve some chance.
“We try to do everything we can regarding training, fitness and looking after ourselves. There’s a great group of players there and everyone tries to drive themselves on. There’s always good numbers at training and always a positive attitude around the place so we just try to do the right things that we can get to a final I suppose and thankfully that’s the way it has worked out.”
Sean takes up that point.
“The panel is aging, the core group is pushing into its 30’s but thankfully there are young players coming through now in the next few years which would be great and a massive help when we are still trying to do the two [football and hurling]. So personally I wouldn’t change too much, some years we just weren’t good enough and some years we were. I mean Clare is very competitive hurling and football.”
That has been proven by four new finalists at senior level as three-in-a-row bids for Éire Óg [football] and Ballyea [hurling] have been replaced by a real sense of anticipation that the destination of the Jack Daly and Canon Hamilton trophies for 2023 won’t be realised until right up to the final whistle.
“There is nothing between a lot of teams in either championship.” Continued Podge. I mean take our own journey, after the Kildysart game, all four teams in the group were on the same points so it was all or nothing in the final round. At the end of that hour, we could have just as easily been in the relegation so they are the fine margins of this championship.
“You need a bit of luck to progress in a championship so tight that there’s very little between the teams.” Adds Sean. “The perfect example of that was in the semi-final as Conal O’Hanlon’s penalty hit both posts and went in off Shane [Daniels]. So thankfully the luck was with us and hopefully that can be the case again against St Breckan’s on Sunday.”
One thing’s for certain, there won’t be another penalty shoot-out anyway because a replay will be the outcome if Cratloe and St Breckan’s are level at the end of normal time. Therefore no more final penalty heroics for Podge then.
“It’s funny, people were saying to me afterwards that it was a high-pressure penalty but I was talking to Dean Ryan on the following Tuesday who claimed that it was the perfect penalty to take because he said ‘even if you missed, you’d still be in it and if you scored you were the hero.’
That kind of put me back in my box really but seriously of course I wasn’t thinking that way. It is a high-pressure situation regardless of when you take one. I’ve missed a few in the past so I was delighted that that one went in.
“The Éire Óg match is indicative of a lot of big games that we’ve been involved in that could have gone either way and it will be the same again on Sunday against Breckan’s.
“I mean it’s a final and every final we’ve played in has taken on a life of its own. We played in finals that I felt we should have won and then there were finals that we won that perhaps we should have lost. So this final is there to be won and we’ll prepare the best we can and try our level best to put in the performance. And if that’s enough great and if it’s not, it’s not.”
“You need a bit of luck too” interjects elder brother Sean. “Whether that’s staying injury-free or a bounce of the ball in the game itself so touch wood no-one will pick up a knock in the next few days and we have our best panel and St Breckan’s have there’s and may the best team win.”

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