Hurling and camogie

Clare's Shane O'Donnell knows Wexford will make them fight for win

PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May in hurling, Shane O’Donnell of Clare, with his award at PwC HQ in Dublin.
Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final: Clare v Wexford (Semple Stadium, 3.45pm today)

SHANE O’Donnell couldn’t even watch when his county Clare faced Wexford in round one of last year’s qualifiers.

Nerves weren’t the reason, although it was a typically tight, tense encounter, the Banner edging through by three points.

The after-effects of a concussion in training had left him barely able to function, never mind attend a Championship clash, far less to play in one.

Yet from thinking his hurling career was over, the Eire Og Ennis clubman - who turned 28 on Wednesday - goes into this afternoon’s round two showdown as the Hurler of the Month for May.

The nausea he was suffering last summer meant that when Clare took on Wexford in Thurles last July O’Donnell “wouldn’t have been able to watch it on a screen and it would have been too, I’m not sure if emotive is the word, but it would have got my heart rate going too much to go to the actual game.

“So my option was to listen in the car. That was kind of all I was left with really. It wasn’t really a conscious decision between different options, it was kind of what I was able for.”

He’s recovered to such a remarkable extent that he even outshone his stellar county colleague Tony Kelly and a host of Limerick men who helped the All-Ireland Champions retain their Munster title after extra time against Clare. O'Donnell's performances at half-forward earned him the May PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the month award.

The Banner will be favourites against the Model County today, but O’Donnell knows they’ll still have to bring their ‘A’ game in order to prevail:

“Wexford are always confident and they have every right to be, so I think they are coming into this quarter-final in good shape. It’s going to be a great battle. We’ve played a lot of good games against them the last few years.”

Clare have won the last three Championship encounters, but will recall that Wexford ended their reign as All-Ireland Champions in 2014, in a qualifier replay - although O’Donnell missed that due to a hamstring problem.

Wexford have lost their last five All-Ireland quarter-finals, seeking a first win since downing Tipperary in 2007, and Clare will be expected to progress.

Yet Darragh Egan’s men are enigmatic: they lost to Dublin and drew with Westmeath in the Leinster round robin - but also drew with Galway and thrashed Laois before beating eventual champions Kilkenny.

Last weekend they comfortably disposed of Kerry. Clare are obviously levels above the Kingdom, arguably the second best side in the country.

With former Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald gone from the Wexford dug-out, O’Donnell is adamant that the familiarity of the opposition doesn’t bring contempt between the players - but might help the Banner men:

“Wexford, we’re quite familiar with, we know what they’re going to bring. They’re going to be really intense, running game, high effort, so it helps knowing that - and it helps knowing that if we’re not at our best we’re going to lose the game.

“It’s actually as simple as that, so knowing that that’s what’s ahead of us has helped us re-focus.

“Wexford are on a brilliant run at the moment. They had an excellent win against Kilkenny and I think that’s where they really showed what they’re capable of.

“It’s not even a matter of being wary, it’s a matter of doing everything we can. Ultimately if we play as well as we can we think we can win - but it will still be extremely close if they bring what they’re able to bring.”

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Hurling and camogie