Podge an easy-going, but deadly assassin

MUNSTER SHC SEMI-FINAL:

Podge an easy-going, but deadly assassin

He won’t be there for tomorrow’s replay as he’ll be getting ready for the Munster SHC semi-final against Cork on Sunday and all that activity might make you think that in trying to strike a balance between those two sports Podge has enough on his plate.

You would be so wrong.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Clare beat Limerick in the Munster U21HC quarter-final. Prowling the sideline for Clare, dashing on and off the field to bring water and wise words was none other than the same Podge. What gives?

“I was just helping out,” he said. “I do it with the minors as well. I enjoy it, love being involved with that group of lads, played with most of them all my life.”

That’s real love, isn’t it? Real dedication? He has other interests but they’re few, and passing.

“I’m working in a clothes shop in Ennis now for the summer, Patrick Burke’s. Call and we’ll see what we can do for you! I took up the guitar in UL [only 22 but in the fourth year of an Environmental Science degree] but didn’t stick with it. I still have theguitar though. And no singing, absolutely not!

“But hurling and football would be the main thing. I’m running a summer camp as well, hopefully do a few weeks of that in Cratloe at the end of this month so I’ll be kept busy.”

That dedication dominates every aspect of his life, up to and including his diet, preparing his own daily dishes every morning before work. A recent tweet showed a picture of those dishes, with the accompanying comment: ‘I’d say the mother’s going to freak in the morning, fridge wiped!’

And did Mrs Collins freak? “Ah no. She went shopping yesterday, restocked! I leave the house early after my breakfast, at work from 9.30 so I need to eat during the day. I have everything in Tupperware from the fridge, eat then as it suits me.”

And what about the lads, his brothers Seán and David? Nothing left for them? “Well my younger brother [Dave] got a J1 visa, is in America, my older brother [Seán, also a dual Clare star] got a job in Galway so I have the house to myself, doing damage!”

From the above exchanges you can also see how single-minded Podge undoubtedly is, in thrall to the GAA and all it stands for – club, county, family, friends, community – but he is not a monotone monochrome personality. He’s a wit, a classic messer from the Donncha O’Callaghan Munster rugby school, a guy who laughs and jokes and lives life to the hilt. But when he gets out on that field, he’s a different Podge Collins. Thelevity is parked and in its place, a deadly earnestness, total concentration and absolute determination. He’s a machine, never stops moving, covers every blade of grass then comes and covers it again. He’s a defender’s worst nightmare because he simply doesn’t stop. He has pace, fitness levels that are off the chart, skill, and heart. Physically, he’s one of the smallest inter-county players around, hurling or football, but that heart is never beaten.

And so it is that Clare won last year’s All-Ireland title, against all odds, so it is that Podge won an All Star and was short-listed for hurler of the year. So it is that he now faces into this game with the same burning desire.

“It feels like only a few years ago I was going onto the field at the Gaelic Grounds and asking Damien Hayes [Galway player, similar size] for his jersey.

“I was playing in the All-Ireland minor final the year Tipp beat Kilkenny [2010, Clare lost a heartbreaker to Kilkenny] and seeing them, young lads like Noel McGrath, Padraic Maher and Brendan Maher playing so well and being envious of them. Imagining winning a senior All-Ireland was kind of surreal.

“For us then to do that was kind of unbelievable,” he continued. “When you’re not winning All-Irelands, when it seems beyond your grasp, it can be more unbelievable than when you actually get to do that. It was kind of ‘okay, that’s done, let’s focus now again on next year’. We’re delighted it happened but the focus is on 2014 now.”

Cork, be warned.

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