Versatile Podge Collins just wants the best of both worlds

Forced to choose between football and hurling, the Cratloe star has opted for football

If someone put a gun to his head and gave him five seconds to decide between hurling and football, then Podge Collins would probably take the bullet. It's already been a madly agonising decision, one which has cost him his place on the Clare hurling team, because as far as Collins is concerned he's enjoying and willing and perfectly able to be playing both.

Indeed, for as long as he can remember, Collins did exactly that, from his schoolboy and minor days with Clare, and also with his club, Cratloe.

Last summer he played both codes at senior level too; although, not long after the early surrendering of their 2013 All-Ireland hurling title, Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald made it clear that Collins needed to give up his football if he still wanted to play hurling.

Fitzgerald, in other words, issued the ultimate ultimatum.


Collins needed more like five weeks than five seconds to decide, mulling over the decision at work, and at home, before committing to football.

He’s adamant his father Colm, who manages both the Clare footballers and Cratloe, had no influence whatsoever on his decision; if anything, had his father issued a similar ultimatum, demanding Collins play football and not hurling, then he would probably have committed to hurling.

“No, it wasn’t an easy decision at all,” says Collins, who admits he felt sickened at having to make to a choice.

“At work I was getting very down about it, didn’t feel well at all. I was in a really bad mood and getting grumpy with people I shouldn’t have been getting grumpy with. I never knew I’d be playing both senior football and hurling with Clare, but I always said from a young age if anybody made me choose one, I would go to the other. Because I just love them both, equally.

“I don’t know what people think of that, but that’s what it came down to.”

Stonewall decision

So what effectively convinced Collins to go with football was the threat of not being allowed to play it. The vice versa would also have been true, had someone threatened him with not being allowed to play hurling.

“I said I was going to give the football a go and that was it then, a stonewall decision. It was definitely a weight off my shoulders. But even with my brothers, when I used to be talking to them about it, I always said if someone did make me make a decision, that is what it would come down to.

“One of the things I hadn’t thought about all that much was the great Clare hurling following, especially with kids.

"I was getting messages on Facebook, and places like that, and you do kind of feel you're letting them down. I don't know if they understand it, but hopefully they will. Letting down fans like that is hard. But there are football fans as well."

There is at least some consolation in that Collins is enjoying both football and hurling with his club, Cratloe, who earlier this month became the first club to win a Clare county double since 1914.

That journey continues on Sunday with the quarter-final of the AIB Munster hurling championship, and a very difficult assignment against Waterford giants Ballygunner.

Great ambitions

For Cratloe, the southeast Clare club – nestled right up against the


border – there are great ambitions to advance through the AIB Munster football championship, having very nearly toppled Dr Crokes in last year’s final.

“Across the club panels, I think 30 players are training with both, and 11 actually start both,” says Collins. “There are four football lads that start in football, but don’t play the hurling. So everyone else that plays the hurling also plays the football. The dual thing is not a problem, though. It’s the same as any team I’ve played for.

“If you’re winning, it’s not a problem. The important thing is avoiding injury.”

Yet there are those – including Banner hurling boss Fitzgerald – who believe that dual players are a thing of the past, at least at elite senior level.

Collins was also criticised by some people this summer who believed his football was getting in the way of his hurling.

"I honestly think that's nonsense," he says. "The Wexford game was only starting when I did something stupid, and got myself sent off. In the Cork game, between myself and Shane O'Neill, only two balls were hit down to us. So I don't think you can say the dual thing is why I had a bad year. Things just didn't run for me and that's fair enough. Whereas last year the ball just kept breaking for me.

Nothing personal

“Okay, Davy felt it didn’t work last year, so definitely in 2015, it won’t be happening,” added Collins. “I don’t think I’ll be changing his mind, to be honest. I just tried to put my case to him. But it’s nothing personal. No hard feelings. He said, ‘look, I felt it didn’t work this year,’ and I said, ‘if that’s your feeling on it, there’s no player bigger than the manager of Clare, you’ve the final word.’

“But I’d love to think I could give it another go during my career, play both for Clare.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics