It wasn’t the easiest win for Clare against Waterford in their Munster round-robin opener last month, clinging on for a one-point win in Walsh Park.
The Banner County led by six points at half-time but a rejuvenated Waterford fought back before a point by Ryan Taylor clinched the narrow win for Clare.
The manner in which Clare allowed Waterford claw their way back into the game won’t have pleased the joint management team of Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney but what they can have no complaints about the performance of Shane O’Donnell.
The 25-year-old was a general nuisance in the full-forward line, beautifully setting up John Conlon for his decisive goal in the 13th minute while O’Donnell also contributed a point from play.
His performance was all the more impressive given that it was his first outing for Clare since the All Ireland semi-final last August, having spent the end of 2018 and the spring of 2019 in Boston, studying in Harvard.
Fellow Clare forward, Podge Collins, was not surprised by how quickly O’Donnell settled back into the pace of championship hurling given the work he put in while in the States.
“He came back in great condition in fairness to him. A lot of people go away for six months from sport and management where you got a S&C coach, nutritionist and coaching staff but Shane looked after himself very well so I had no doubts that he wouldn’t come back in any other way than he did”, admitted Collins at Centra’s launch of the 2019 Senior Hurling Championship.
“He came back in better shape probably than he left. He’s a good level of maturity. He’s 25, it’s not like you’re sending a 19-year-old over to America. He knew going over there he couldn’t do the dog on it but I don’t know if he’ll thank me for saying this but he’s a ceoliac as well so he eats very carefully.
“That probably helps as well to be honest because you can’t just go for burger and chips which is very convenient when you’re in Boston. He came back in good shape.”
Following their three-week break, Clare now face into another formidable task as they welcome high-flying Tipperary to Ennis.
Liam Sheedy’s side have been in impressive form so far in the competition, putting Cork to the sword in Pairc Ui Chaoimh before recording a 2-30 to 0-18 win over Waterford the following week.
Despite their dominance in Cusack Park, Collins is aware that home advantage won’t count for much against their in-form rivals.
“This year 75% of the games have been won by the away teams so it’s not making a whole pile of difference.
“Tipperary [have] probably been the form team of the championship by a long shot.They’ve come to Cusack Park a few times before. They’re no strangers to it. They beat us in the Munster final in 2008 and they beat us in 2015 down there. Even last year when we played in the league we only won by a couple of points.
“They have a lot of the same players and they’re not going to be worried about coming to Ennis. They have had a good bit of success there.”