Hurling fan or not, Clare starlet Shane O’ Donnell is famous for his massive impact on the 2013 All Ireland Final replay. However, despite O’ Donnell’s heroics on a day where he scored hat-trick and three points, O’ Donnell made an impact on several occasions during the season dating as far back as February 10, 2013.
That day was the final of the Waterford Crystal Cup and Clare faced Tipperary. Clare edged Tipperary for much of the game and though Tipperary were trying hard to get back into it, O’ Donnell pounced and scored a goal that decided the game as a contest.
O’ Donnell made his senior Championship debut at the age of just 18, and instantly made an impact. He scored his first senior goal off a rebound, hardly a memorable moment but its impact was demonstrable in the next few moments. It gave a young Clare side an aura of confidence and one that instilled a belief in the squad that they could win any game. Then Conor McGrath of Cratloe stormed on goal and put it away for the county.
The game was a snapshot of how Clare’s season went following their demolition by Cork; hungry, attacking and fiercely determined.
Speaking of snapshots, Clare’s lone goal versus Laois where they piled up 1-32 came at the hands of the now nineteen-year-old. In the final minutes O’ Donnell took the ball in front of the full back line, beat three Laois defenders and put the ball away with a fine strike off the hurl. Clare were up by seventeen points but O’ Donnell’s eye was immediately on goal. On two occasions he could have taken points but instead he rattled the net. A hunger for goals or looking to impress off the bench, only O’ Donnell knows.
After ransacking Laois for all they were worth, Clare turned towards Wexford and as commonplace for Clare then, they made life exceedingly difficult and wasted a big Shane O’ Donnell moment. A welcome, timely O’ Donnell goal gave An Clár a five point lead at half-time. Instead of holding the lead, Clare’s accuracy went out the window and put away wide after wide, allowing Wexford to fight back. Extra-time was needed which Clare ultimately went on to win.
The All-Ireland final neared and Davy Fitzgerald approached O’ Donnell. Handing him a jersey the colour of saffron and blue with 22 on the back, Fitzgerald told him, ‘do what you always do’. The rest is history.
O’ Donnell went out and did what he does best, tearing Cork asunder and giving Shane O’ Neill a day of seemingly never-ending nightmares. He racked up three goals and three points off the back of nine touches in an outstanding performance. Clinical and effective. Brutal and demoralising. Fierce and overwhelming. O’ Donnell on a singular day embodied Clare hurling in 2013.
O’ Donnell has the weight of the GAA world on his shoulders now. His telling of character, form, and play will be determined by how he deals with the pressure. However, 2013 was an impactful season, one where he made decisive contributions and ended the year with how he began it: scoring goals.
Pundit Arena, Luke Lonergan.