YOUNG at heart, with many more miles to run.
That’s Podge Collins’ mantra despite being lumbered among the veteran ranks where the class of 2019 is concerned as a hard underbelly of youth emerges within a squad that has changed substantially over the past number of years.
“We need them; they are essential to success,” says Collins of the new wave, but…..”I still think I’m one of the young lads. I’m 27 this year now, but you have lads coming in at the age of 19 and 20 and they bring so much energy. It’s so important. You see most teams across the country, most players don’t play past 30, so it is a young man’s game.
“It’s very important. They bring so much energy and you see them in the running and in the drills and then the matches — they never seem to run out of gas. It’s tough when you’re referred to one of the older lads. It’s great that we have those young lads coming through.”
The Cratloe man was one of those in 2012 when Davy Fitzgerald gave him his first start in the championship clash against Waterford in Semple Stadium — a long time ago in hurling terms now, as he faces into his eighth year with the senior squad.
“Playing since 2012,” he muses, “and it feels like it’s has flown by. I think that’s the nature of it. Your playing career is short and it is important to try and make the most of it. I had a bit of a hiatus in the middle with injury and those things make you appreciate playing all that more. I am thankful that I am still playing, am as hungry as ever and looking forward to the new year.”
That means attacking on all fronts — the job already done in the Munster Senior League, with the focus now switching to the National League in the short-term, while never losing sight on the long-term that is the championship.
“No matter who you have on the field you are going to want to win it,” he says in response to what the National League means. “We said that as regards the Munster League — there’s no point in going soft any day or not trying to win any game; you try to win as many games as you can and if we can do that with a panel of 26/27 players that’s great and if everyone is performing that’s better again because it gives the management headaches.
“That’s what I’d be hoping from the National League — that different lads will put their hands up and give the lads in management a headache before championship when they are picking the team. The way it is now we are playing four games in six weeks in championship so you can’t go out with just 15 players now — it’s just not possible.”
It’s that strength in depth that Collins feels will be paramount when summer comes, as Clare bid to build on the promise, the hope and the expectation that they can win championship titles, not just games, once more.
“With a small bit of success in the early days, but nothing since then — hopefully we’ll get back to those levels this year,” he ventures. “Last year we lost three games, we drew one and we won three. Even though we were that close and there was a lot of positives to take from last year — but losing to Cork twice was very disappointing and letting Galway lead by so much and dominate for so long against us in those semi-finals was very disappointing as well.
“You reflect on those games and see how you can do better; you reflect on the wins and you see how you won them. You take all the positives and see if you can come out on the right side of the results this year and try to improve.”
That process starts in earnest on Saturday night.