PADRAIC Collins doesn’t hang around. While everyone else is still inside the dressing room he’s one of the first to emerge before being sucked back into the party that’s in full swing.
“You’re wanted Podge, you’re wanted,” comes the word from inside Davy’s lair. “Come in, come in, come back to us.”
He obliges, but not before he explains, one more time, his remarkable journey from county senior footballer in Doonbeg back in early 2012 to the pinnacle.
All-Ireland winner. All Star shoo-in. Hurler of the Year contender.
It’s January 2012 and Collins is in Shanahan McNamara Park in Doonbeg playing for the Clare senior footballers against the University of Limerick; meanwhile the senior hurlers are in the boxing ring in Ennis, taking the first punches towards what would eventually become the haymaker to finally floor Cork in this All-Ireland final.
“It’s funny how it worked out,” says Collins. “In February last year I got sick and I was on the football at the time and I couldn’t back into it when I came back – the physicality of the football the way it’s gone, I got a chance to come into the hurling was lucky enough to get my place and it’s worked out since.
“If you had told me at the start of the year that we’d be up lifting the Liam McCarthy at the top of those steps, I’d have laughed at you. Being honest, you don’t think that you’re going to get there and to get there is absolutely unbelievable and it’s best experience in my life.”
For once Collins, who has been Clare’s most consistent player all year was tied up by Brian Murphy, but the inspiration flowed all around him.
“Thank God the lads stepped it up,” he says. “The scare we got the last day when it went to 72 minutes – we thought the game was over – and when Domhnall put the ball over the bar we had our third chance. We said we better not throw it away.
“It was get the legs right and get back flying fit and get out there and give it your all – it was a case of we’re getting up to Croke Park, we’re lucky enough to be in an All-Ireland and just give it your all for the day and hopefully things will pan out for the day.
“If anyone asked to me who to back for goals, it would be Shane O’Donnell. He’s the man, he’s unbelievable for goals. He turns his man and he’s only interested in one thing. When he got the first goal it sent a shiver up your spine.”
Same as Collins’ clubmate Conor McGrath. “He’s unbelievable,” says Collins. “It just shows the composure he has. It was a brilliant goal.”
A strike worthy of sealing Cratloe’s greatest day.
“When we won the county final in 2009 that was a big step for the players and we got confidence from that,” recalls Collins. “Joe McGrath took us when we were under 12 and we did a lot of work all the way up along. It’s special for us, as it is for Clonlara. There’s a group of them that grew up together playing and we’re the same. It’s very special.”
With Collins and what he’s achieved part of a special group who’s place in hurling history is assured.
This Week’s Clare People has a 32 page All-Ireland final replay souvenir supplement