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Colm Collins, Clare Manager, looks on during their SFC All-Ireland Quarter Final at Croke Park. Photograph by John Kelly

Collins: ‘Being Clare manager doesn’t give me any headaches’

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Not only is Colm Collins remarkably embarking on his tenth consecutive National Football League campaign but it’s Clare’s consistency in that period that makes the county’s longest serving manager also the most highly regarded.

From Division 4 to 2 took only three years and now the Banner, despite being largely written off nationally as relegation fodder each year, are commencing a seventh successive Division 2 campaign.

Considering that in the previous decade, Clare had six different managers (John Kennedy, Donie Buckley and Michael Brennan, Paidi Ó Sé, Frank Doherty, Micheál McDermott and Mick O’Dwyer), all of whom were not native to the county, it’s a testament to Collins’ longevity that the Kilmihil man remains steadfast in his clear desire to developing Clare football.

So what is it that keeps him coming back for more each year?

“The fantastic bunch of players we have is the main thing. They have been a pleasure to deal with and the day that wouldn’t be the case, I don’t think anybody would stay.

“I’ve also been extremely fortunate with the people that have come in around me and helped me out. There’s a fantastic bunch of people there that work really hard.

“In short, it’s not giving me any headaches. It’s a very enjoyable part of my life and because of those two reasons I just mentioned in particular it’s very enjoyable.

“It’s because of the kind of player we have and the people that are involved with me that I can continue to do what I do.

“In essence I’m not getting the kind of grief you’d get in other jobs… not yet anyway.”

Having also double-jobbed as manager of Cratloe throughout the last decade and beyond as 2023 will be his 17th year in charge of his adopted club side, that unflinching dedication and stability comes into particularly sharp focus this weekend as he pits his wits against Mickey Harte, who after a record 17 years at the helm of Tyrone, turned to helping Louth climb the footballing ladder over the past two seasons.

“Any team that is prepared by a manager of Mickey Harte’s stature is going to be a big threat because whatever is in that team, he will get the most out of them. We would have an immense respect for Louth and an immense respect for what Mickey has achieved there and indeed everywhere he has been.”

A Clare v Louth fixture wouldn’t normally garner many column inches but considering the strength of Division 2 this year with six of the eight teams having contested at least an AllI-reland Quarter-Final in the last five seasons, getting off to a running start is simply a prerequisite for both sides in Cusack Park this Sunday (2pm).

“It’s a really competitive division this year and every match will be like a cup final. It’s nothing new of course and I’ve said this a thousand times before but you simply have to take it one game at a time and when that’s behind you, for good or bad, you move on to the next one.

“The home matches are important but our record away from home isn’t bad either so on our day we could beat anyone. Such is the importance of every match that we can only take them one at a time and treat each one as if it was a championship knock-out game.

“I think that if we do that and keep an open mind about improvement and developing game-by-game, we’ll be fine.

“It’s a pretty hectic schedule but we’re hoping that we’ll have enough depth in our panel to be able to handle that.

“We lost a few players recently with Tubs [David Tubridy] Kevin [Harnett] and Sean [Collins]. They are three big players but in the normal scheme of things, every year you lose a couple of players in the hope that at the other end of the conveyor belt, you’re bringing on players too. Hopefully we have the young fellas that will step up to the mark and grab a jersey.

“We tried to use the McGrath Cup to see as many players as possible but this Sunday is a completely different kettle of fish as now it’s about getting really big performances in those seven games and getting a settled team.

“Of course we’d dearly love to go up [to Division 1] obviously but I don’t think we can look any further than trying to get a really good performance this Sunday and get what we can out of that game, I think that’s vital.”

About Eoin Brennan

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