JUST days out from a Munster championship semi-final and Shane O’Donnell is raring to go. The man who etched himself into the history books as a teenager four short years ago on an immortal Saturday evening in September, is incredibly still just 22 years of age.
Shane will turn 23 in the middle of June and is currently a PHD student, working in Fermoy. By day his research takes him into complex areas, like discovering the relationship between carbohydrates and irritable bowl syndrome, most evenings however his research is centred on the Limerick full backline and the hopeful damaging effects of Shane O’Donnell on them!
The Éire Óg forward happily reports that he is 100 per cent fit heading into this championship and is looking forward to playing some part this Sunday;
“Yeah I am fully fit. Probably for the first time heading into a championship since 2013, so hopefully now my form gets me a jersey on Sunday,” Shane told us this week.
O’Donnell is taking nothing for granted with this squad and is quick to point out that with a fully fit panel, competition for places has never been keener;
“Apart from Oisin (O’Brien), everyone is fit and while of course he is a big loss, that’s unusual for us going into championship, having everyone flying. That’s very healthy for the squad but it makes it harder for all of us to get our place. There is serious competition for Sunday. I’m just hoping I get to play a part, whatever management decide that is,” he says.
Back in February Shane went under the knife, deciding that his ongoing knee problems needed to be resolved;
“I had a cartilage tear in my knee and was really struggling with periods after games. It was taking longer and longer to recover so I went for the surgery and I am glad that I did. By the week before the club championship I was back at one hundred per cent and without pain. That was the best I have felt on the hurling field for a long time, so hopefully I can retain that for the entire championship,” he told The Clare People this week.
Clare will need the tyro and his scoring threat this summer, with this Sunday first up. O’Donnell knows this Limerick squad well and points out that he has been on the wrong end of the scoreline against many of these players on plenty of occasions;
“Anytime we play Limerick and in any grade, the games always seem to be close. I think form goes out the window when Clare and Limerick meet, and the rivalry takes over. I’ve been on teams that have lost games to Limerick, including the U-21 final in Cusack Park two years ago. And a few weeks before that they beat us in the Munster senior championship by a point, so it never seems to matter who are favourites or underdogs, the games are always tight,” he says.
O’Donnell, like all of the Clare panel, has been looking forward to this game since the draw was made back in October of 2016.
“I’d say both teams were delighted with the draw, knowing that we were one game away from a Munster final. There is a real prize for the winners on Sunday, Limerick and ourselves will be very conscious of that, the fact this it’s a semi-final. So the stakes are high, as they always are against Limerick in championship,” says O’Donnell.
This year will be O’Donnell’s first championship summer under the new management of Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor, although he and many of the panel have had experience of the duo underage;
“Lots of the panel would have been familiar with them and that definitely helped the transitions, which was pretty seamless. Donal and Gerry have been everything we expected and more. Having worked with them at underage, I knew we’d hit the ground running and we have done that,” O’Donnell adds.
The Munster championship was turned on its head last weekend when Cork surprised most of the hurling world with their thrilling performance against Tipperary, a result Shane says merely highlights the uncertain nature of championship hurling.
“Yeah, that result to an extent is a surprise, but when you step back from it, not really. Any team in Munster can beat any other team. That’s championship hurling. We’ll be thinking that way, so will Limerick. It’s what makes the Munster championship so special,” concludes the PhD student, killer forward and still, until eleven days after Sunday, just twenty two years old young man.