ON Monday night next, UTV Ireland will air a documentary that will be of particular interest to Clare GAA fans.
My Toughest Year, which will be broadcast at 8pm, follows the recovery of one of GAA’s best known and most talented young players, dual star Podge Collins, from a cruciate injury he suffered 12 months ago and which cast doubt on the future of his playing career. He suffered the injury while playing for his club Cratloe in the Senior Hurling Championship.
Over the past 12 months, UTV Ireland sports reporter, Marie Crowe, from Sixmilebridge, followed Collins throughout each step of his recovery process, gaining exclusive access to his medical procedures, his rehabilitation and his fight to regain match-day fitness.
Collins is set to play Munster championship football for Clare this Sunday against Limerick and, seven days later, will line out in the senior hurling semi-final against Waterford.
In recent weeks he made history by playing a key role in Clare’s Division 3 Football League and Division 1 Hurling League successes.
The devastating injury and subsequent recovery is not the only challenge Podge Collins has faced in recent times. Balancing his career with a strict training regime for two teams competing at the highest level also presents significant challenges.
Discussing the struggles of his dual dream in the documentary, Podge reveals, “When you’re a young lad growing up and playing both codes, one of the hard things is when you are thinking during the week that you have training with this coach and that coach on the same night and you’re wondering who will I ring and how will I work it. I really found that difficult because I hate telling one manager I couldn’t train because I was training with someone else. This year it’s been very well organised. Both managements have been co-ordinating the schedule and then that’s put in front of me and I just do it. I know exactly where I’m going to be each night of the week.”
Speaking about the skillset of the two codes, Podge notes, “People say hurling requires more skill but I think football is just as skilful. You see the great players like Colm Cooper, James O’Donoghue, Sean Cavanagh, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan. The skill level they bring to the table is unbelievable and, while it’s hard to get anywhere near them, it’s important to bring the football down to the alley, as well as the hurley.”
With his father Colm also a stalwart of Clare GAA, Podge describes the feeling of winning a National Football League under the management of his dad. “You obviously want to play for your father and winning a league final in Croke Park was special and something I’ll never forget.”
According to Marie Crowe, “GAA played a huge part in my family life and, from a very young age, I have had nothing but respect and admiration for club and county players who put their bodies on the line, purely for the passion of the sport.
“A lot of people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. Players train first thing in the morning, fulfil their day-job, and train again in the evening, all to maintain a level of fitness on par with some of the highest paid sports professionals in the world.
“Podge is a prime example of one of Ireland’s finest amateur athletes who dedicates his life to his county. He has fought hard and faced challenges that many of us would have shied away from, all to wear the coveted saffron and blue. It has been a pleasure following Podge on his journey to recovery and I would like to thank him for giving us exclusive access for this documentary.”
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor