Dual star Podge Collins will be available to the Clare footballers from the start for Saturday’s crucial All-Ireland qualifier clash with Roscommon despite hurling duty the following afternoon.
Collins, a hurling All Star and All-Ireland medallist in 2013, resumed his dual status this year and for the second time in three weeks is facing the prospect of back-to-back Championship games over Saturday and Sunday.
The Banner footballers have a shot at making history and clinching a first All-Ireland quarter-final place on Saturday when they take on the Rossies in Round 4A of the All-Ireland qualifiers at 3pm in Salthill.
Exactly 25 hours later, the Clare hurlers will face Galway in the second part of a double bill of All-Ireland quarter-final ties at 4pm in Thurles.
When the roles were reversed a couple of weeks ago, Collins played the entire game for the hurlers on Saturday as they overcame Limerick in a qualifier tie and only appeared as a 48th minute sub the following day for the footballers who beat Laois.
Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald would presumably wish to have his half-forward from the throw-in again against Galway though Colm Collins, Clare’s football manager and Podge’s father, said the Cratloe player will be available from the beginning on Saturday, throwing Sunday’s starting spot into doubt.
“It’s the same thing again as a couple of weekends ago, two games over two days,” said Collins. “He’s available to us on the Saturday and please God then to the hurlers on Sunday. No more than any other player, he’s sitting there and he’s available for selection by us the same as everyone else.”
It would be difficult to rank Saturday’s game over Sunday’s, or vice versa, as both Clare teams have a huge reward in their sights.
For the footballers, there is the prospect of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since they came into existence in 2001. Clare have only once contested a final round qualifier before and slumped to a 19-point defeat to Kerry in 2012.
Beating Roscommon would also bring a sixth game for Clare in this year’s Championship, the most they’ll have played in any one season since the qualifiers were introduced.
“I suppose what’s very important from our point of view now is not looking beyond the challenge coming this Saturday,” continued Collins. “At the same time, it’s extremely important to be constantly improving and to be constantly getting better so we’ll certainly be pushing to extend our stay in the Championship.”
Opponents Roscommon have to endure the oppressive six-day turnaround, something that should help Clare’s bid for history. Cavan beat Carlow recently with just six days preparation though teams have generally struggled to win a week or less after exiting their provincial structure.
Roscommon also have to overcome losing so heavily to Galway in Sunday’s Connacht final replay while it remains to be seen how they feel about returning to Pearse Stadium where they played relatively poorly in the drawn provincial final.
“They’re still a Division 1 team with tremendous players and fire-power, these things can happen,” said Collins. “They got to a provincial final and things can go wrong on those occasions and the scores start to get away from you. But Roscommon are a good side. The six-day thing has been difficult for teams but they’re still a quality outfit, a strong Division 1 team. We have the confidence that if we can get a really good performance we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Clare will surely be encouraged by the fact that of the eight Division 1 teams competing in this year’s Championship a remarkable six of them have already been beaten by a non-Division 1 team. “It does give you hope but all you can do is concentrate on your own situation and make sure you improve on your last game, put yourself in a position to win the game,” said Collins. “We’d be looking at trying to eliminate the things we didn’t do well against Sligo, the silly turnovers, poor decision making, being a bit more patient, all that sort of stuff. That’s what our focus is on.”
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