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Podge Collins has returned to the Clare footballers starting team for Sunday's Munster semi-final. Photograph by John Kelly.

Podge delivers crucial 35 minutes for Clare

INTRODUCED at half time, Podge Collins made an invaluable contribution to Clare’s promotion winning second half display in Creggan.

The All-Ireland winning All-Star hurler kicked two crucial points from play and along with players like Shane McGrath, his brother Seán, Ciaran Russell and Dean Ryan, the UL student worked exceptionally hard on and off the ball.

Speaking afterwards Podge said that the passion evident in the dressing room inspires him.

“You can tell by the way lads talk in the dressing room, before games and at half time, how passionate they are about it. I know it doesn’t sound too glamorous after winning the All-Ireland hurling but it’s absolutely huge, especially in my house. It’ll be a happy house for the night,” he laughed.

Collins acknowledged that it took him a few minutes to get up to the pace of the game after his introduction for Jamie Malone.

“Coming up to Antrim we didn’t really know what to expect. I’d never played against them anyway. They were definitely one of the most physical sides I’d played against. You don’t notice until you actually go out on to the pitch. I got a land because the first two balls I got were stripped off me,” he said.

“But we’re just delighted to get the win. Getting out of division 4 was just massive for us. I was involved the year we lost to Wicklow and it was absolutely devastating. Just to get out of division 4 is a huge boost. Onwards and upwards hopefully,” he added.

The Cratloe man felt that Clare should have played in the first how they played in the second and perhaps carried the ball at Antrim, rather than kicking hastily and early.

“In the first half I don’t think we carried the ball enough. I don’t know was it nerves or maybe lads were afraid to get forward. But in the second half lads just threw caution to the wind. Lads like Dean Ryan and Ciaran Russell were bombing up the wings and they were setting up everything for us. I think that’s what really helped us get the scores, bringing numbers forward and overlapping,” he explained.

Absent for the hurlers quarter-final win over Laois the previous Sunday, Podge said that his injured finger is now “feeling perfect.”

Once referee Cathal O’Hagan shrilled the game ending whistle, Podge was surrounded by Antrim youngsters desperate for a photo or an autograph from their idol, who even emptied his gear bag of togs and socks, handing them over to the ecstatic children.

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