Podge Collins fancies a resurgent Clare will be buoyed by the opportunity to maintain their fine home championship record in Cusack Park against Limerick.
On a day when the Banner All-Ireland winning teams of 1995 and ’97 have arranged to meet up after the game, Sunday’s sold-out clash is sure to be an occasion but it must also mark a win for Clare to guarantee a second successive Munster final spot.
“That’s the beauty of this new championship, playing these home games,” says Collins.
“It brings a bigger crowd and a better atmosphere and Cusack Park, for us, is a fortress. Playing underage in there, we loved it. The sheds would be getting bate and we just loved it and a lot of lads from west Clare, they don’t have to travel two hours to Thurles.
“It allows a lot of people who wouldn’t normally get to games, they are able to go to games. So that’s the beauty of the new Munster championship for us.”
Limerick, says Collins, stand in the way of Clare making amends for their loss to Cork in last year’s provincial final.
“Cork are still ahead of us, they beat us by five down there and Limerick are probably the form team of the championship so far, along with Galway. So we definitely won’t be getting carried away.
Having come on just before half-time in Thurles last Sunday, Collins gave a reminder of the dynamism he can provide. Injuries setbacks and splitting his time between football and hurling may have affected him in recent years but the Cratloe man not only looks fitter than ever but is hurling with renewed confidence.
“When you are not on the starting 15 and when the lads that are there are doing better than you in training and are there on merit, it really does drive you on off the field and you just have to work your hardest. It is a very hard thing to break onto the team when lads are playing better than you. I suppose hunger had a lot to do with it.
“I don’t know if it was frustration. Players like Conor McGrath, Shane O’Donnell, and John Conlon are three of the best hurlers in the country, three of the best inside-forwards. It is hard to get in for a place, they are there 100% on merit.
“So when you do get in, you just have to be focused as you can and do as best you can for the team. And next week will be the same, whether I am coming off the bench again or not, that is the entire focus. Listen, Tipp was just one day, one performance. Over the last couple of years, it has been very inconsistent. So I just have to keep that focus and keep working hard.”
The 26-year-old gave a stirring speech at half-time on Sunday, reminding his team-mates they were anything but dead at just four points down.
“Ah, it was just something along the lines of saying what we put into this game and it would be just such a shame to let it slip, because it was do-or-die for both teams.
“Tipp led for most of the way and people looking at the game might say that they were the better team for most of it but once you are ahead when the final whistle goes, I don’t care how well or badly we played.”
There were tears shed and roars shouted on the field afterwards but Collins maintains Clare will be grounded for Limerick.
“There is nothing won yet. It is just another win in the league format, there is nothing to celebrate. It is just two points. We are in the All-Ireland series now, which was probably the target at the start of the year. Now we want to focus on getting to a Munster final and winning that.”
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