2019 marks a sixth Munster football championship campaign for Colm Collins as Clare senior manager.
During that time, he has faced Waterford just once before which was in his maiden year. Since then, Kerry have been his most common foe with Limerick a close second.
Since taking over the reins from Mick O’Dwyer, Collins has overseen arguably the most successful period in the history of Clare football, with a Division Three National League title annexed in 2016 along with a third successive stint in the second tier to come next year.
What makes it all the more remarkable is that he has also been not just active, but successful on the club scene during that period, leading Cratloe to the Clare senior football title in 2013 and 2014, along with consistently reaching the latter stages in the subsequent seasons. That experience has allowed the Kilmihil native to gain a unique insight into how the club v county debate is evolving, and it is fair to say he is unequivocal in his views.
“I just that April club month is absolutely ridiculous. I think it is so punishing, especially on dual clubs. Calling it a club month where you are asking clubs to play one day after the other with the same set of players is ridiculous. The sooner we man up about this and agree to play our leagues without county players the better. If they are available, that’s great. All I would be talking about it that two weeks before a game they would not be available, that is my view on it. Play when you can without the county players and it should be enshrined in Clare GAA laws so it is there for everyone to see. It varies from year to year as to how many players each club has on the county panel so that it evens out over time. At the moment, five of the seven league games are over and in our case in Cratloe, we have played most of those games without two-thirds of our team. I just think the leagues should go on right through the year and it should be irrelevant whether the county players are there or not. You then have a chance to develop your club players and in our situation for the last month, it was just mental” he noted.
With players having gone through such a hectic schedule over the last few weeks, the fear of picking up injuries is one that gave the Clare management many anxious Sunday evenings. Goalkeeper Eamon Tubridy was one of those who is now ruled out for the campaign after suffering knee ligament damage, while there are also doubts about David Tubridy, Rob Eyres and Cathal O’Connor. Collins feels it is a real concern when championship comes so quickly after the club month.
“Thankfully in our own club there was a bit of common sense used and we agreed not to have the county players going through two games in the weekend. I think it is very unfair on dual clubs but I also think it is mad for the solely football or hurling clubs too. You will have a situation during the summer where clubs will be looking for challenge games so why not be playing our leagues then when there is nothing on? The key thing here is that we have to bite the bullet and play the league games without the county lads” he said.
With the new championship season now imminent, Clare will be hoping to hit the ground as the chance to bridge a 27 year gap without a championship win over Kerry looms if they get over Waterford. Collins feels their opponents on Saturday will be well versed on what to expect in Cusack Park.
“The knowledge and the work that is being done by backroom teams now is totally professional. Waterford will know us inside out and the last time they came to Ennis we were lucky to get the second chance. This is a very important game for us in that we are playing in front of our home crowd so it is vital we get it right and turn in a really good display. Anyone that is involved that takes anything for granted is going to end up a very sad individual very quickly. Every team that you play, you must show them the utmost respect. You can be sure they will have their homework done on Clare, they will have seen all our games and they will be well versed. I have come across Benji Whelan before, he is an excellent guy and he was over the Nire when they beat Cratloe in a Munter club semi-final down there a few years ago. This guy is really capable so we need to make sure that we get everything in order for our own performance. We will be treating Waterford like we treat every other team and that’s what is important” he concluded.