From being the boy wonder of the senior set-up in 2013 as Clare scaled All-Ireland heights Shane O’Donnell is now the elder statesman at Under 21 level as Clare shoot for more hurling history. Eoin Brennan reports.

Having been accustomed to being Clare’s teenage poster boy since that sensational All-Ireland final senior replay, Shane O’Donnell is now being forced to take on a new role of being Clare’s most experienced player for this year’s Under 21’s.

Now in his final underage season, the majority of senior stars that had backboned the unprecedented three-in-a-row are now gone, with the Éire Óg star the sole representative of the Class of 2015 to play a part in Davy Fitzgerald’s All-Ireland campaign.

But having had such a carefree introduction to adult hurling, this responsibility doesn’t sit too comfortably on his shoulders.

“I don’t really like taking responsibility but yes, I kind of have to I guess. I mean lads don’t kind of be looking around searching for someone to stand up or that kind of thing, they tend to take it on on their own as you saw from the last day.

“That said, being one of the eldest here, you’ve kind of have to think of yourself as one of the people that should be standing up on the day or being one of the leaders.

“Obviously we’ve been lucky enough the last few years but as everyone knows, at Under 21’s there’s almost a new bunch every year. Fortunately for the last couple of years, we’ve had a nice backbone through the side but they’re obviously gone as everyone knows and we’ve gelled together really well this year as everyone saw against Waterford.

“However, we know that it will need even more than that the next day and everyone is just looking forward to it.”

Clare v Limerick matches don’t tend to be bland affairs though but with this being the first Under 21 final meeting between the neighbouring counties since Limerick’s breakthrough in 1986, there promises to be an extra edge to what is the final game in the old Cusack Park.

“I don’t really like taking responsibility but yes, I kind of have to I guess. I mean lads don’t kind of be looking around searching for someone to stand up or that kind of thing, they tend to take it on on their own as you saw from the last day.

“By the sounds of it, it is expected to be a full house and anyway, derbies between us are always 50/50. Limerick are going to travel with big numbers and everyone is starting to get fairly up for it. It’s going to be a big occasion.

“I think in terms of confidence, the semi-final win in the Park will give us a boost as we were a bit of an unknown quantity coming into the Waterford game. We had an idea of our potential but even to a certain degree really you don’t know what you are looking at until you play a championship game. So we kind of figured out the last day what we are about and even the fact that the Waterford win was in the Park and we’re in the Park again on Thursday will be a good thing.

“But at the end of the day, there’s only so much that home advantage and what we did the last day will stand to us, we’ll still have to go out and do the business.

“And we’ll need to improve again. I mean I don’t think Waterford would have been happy with their performance and we only beat them by two points so we still have a lot to do and hopefully we can show that on Thursday.”

If any extra motivation is required, there’s also the little matter of redressing the balance from 2012 when this group of players were edged out in both the Munster Minor Final and All-Ireland Semi-Final in heartbreaking circumstances.

“A lot of the lads were involved in 2012 and that Dublin game was extremely disappointing. We let in some awful goals and we felt that we really let that one slip, no less that the Galway game the year before. So that has played on our mind as does the Munster final in which we felt that we had that but didn’t really play to our potential and only lost by two or three points in the end.

“So looking back now, it was a disappointing all round that year and it is something that everyone keeps in the back of their mind because even after the elation of beating Waterford the last day, this squad still know what it feels like to lose big games.

“At the end of the day, we haven’t won anything yet.”

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