Shane O’Donnell was in Croke Park yesterday to help the GAA launch the Replay project, which captures 3D motion-picture data of the skills of football and hurling, writes Denis Hurley.
It was a replay of a different kind which launched O’Donnell to national prominence in 2013, as he scored three goals in Clare’s All-Ireland final replay defeat of Cork. That was the last time he and his county played at headquarters, and righting that is the next mission in the wake of another replay win, against Waterford in the league decider in Thurles last Sunday.
“Yeah, it has been a while,” O’Donnell says.
“Everyone’s ambition at the start of the year is to get to Croke Park, so obviously it would be unbelievable to get back here. But there’s a lot of matches between now and then and a lot of teams want to get here.
“You are going to be looking at four teams out of seven or eight teams that could potentially win the All-Ireland. So there’s a lot of games to be played and if you asked anyone they’d want to be here.”
Tony Kelly’s two late points to seize victory on Sunday mean that Clare are still unbeaten in 2016 and that can only boost belief in their abilities, in O’Donnell’s view.
“Just having some sort of momentum, but I’d be extremely confident in our players,” he says.
“I see talent all over the pitch when I look out at the Clare team. You’re always going to get the chances, there’s always going to be another ball so as long as the whistle hasn’t been blown you always think that you’re still in it.”
And yet, at the same time, had Waterford prevailed he doesn’t necessarily feel it would have shaken Clare.
“I don’t think so,” he says.
“It would have been upsetting to lose the game, Waterford will tell you the same thing, it’s upsetting to lose a league final but outside of that, I don’t think anyone would really... they’re not going to dwell on it.
“They’ve forgotten about it by now. They’re probably back training at the same time so I don’t think you’re going to be upset over it to the point of it upsetting your next game or your training for the championship.” For Clare and Waterford, that next game is the third part of the counties’ trilogy, at the beginning of June. With Sunday’s replay being O’Donnell’s return to action after an ankle injury, he’d have preferred more time.
“It’s going to be three weeks after our club championship this weekend, you can’t do anything about it,’ he says.
“Personally I’d prefer an extra two weeks because I have only just come back from injury. I haven’t put down a proper week’s training yet so I’d love another four or five weeks, but at the same time it’s nice when there’s a match only just around the corner.
“Everyone is putting in 100% knowing that championship is literally three weeks away.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.