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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019

Patrick Donnellan: I haven't even thought about the captaincy speech

The star also explained one way that Clare are similar to Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland.

Patrick Donnellan has emphasised his side's team spirit ahead of Sunday's final.
Patrick Donnellan has emphasised his side's team spirit ahead of Sunday's final.

CLARE CAPTAIN PATRICK Donnellan says he hasn’t even considered the prospect of his post-All-Ireland final captaincy speech, so intense is his focus on Sunday’s game.

The 28-year-old is determined to ensure there are no distractions ahead of his side’s all-important clash with Cork this weekend.

“I’m not just saying it now, as in I’m at home writing the speech and I’m lying to ye when I come in here! I would never think about those kinds of things. People would be asking you about the different things that come around with an All-Ireland final and it just doesn’t come into your head.

“I know it is all for nothing if we don’t win the next day and we don’t perform the next day. You see it even the last day with Limerick: they are after coming down from a Munster final, a really huge day for them but they are walking off the field the last day very disappointed to lose.”

He continues: “An All-Ireland is a long way away from them and the thoughts they would have coming into that game would be a lot different. We know that we don’t want to be in that position and we’ll look after the things that will help us to play well.

“That’s all that matters for us. If I’m going up the steps I’m sure I’ll be able to think of a few words and nobody will worry about what I’m saying anyway.”

He elaborates on his determination to ignore the inevitable hype, without disrespecting the fans.

“You take it with a pinch of salt. There is nobody coming into your dressing room or nobody sending you a text on the day you lose, you know that. I would never turn away a well-wisher or you would never tell someone to stop texting you if they were trying to congratulate you.

“You’ll take the congratulations and it’s nice to get them. It’s better to get a message saying ‘well done’ rather than a message saying something negative about you.”

Donnellan also reveals that his side share certain similarities with Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland, as they acknowledge the importance of team building and bonding with one another.

“We spend more time with each other than we do with anybody else outside of our close family. It’s important we all get on and we all make an effort with everyone. It would be very easy just to come in, put your head down and go home without saying anything to anyone.

“There is nothing structured like [at Sunderland], that we have to stay on after training or anything like that. But you can see that there is a genuine interest and a genuine friendliness and a relationship between all the players.

“It’s nothing got to do with hurling; it’s the fact that we have a level of respect for each other and a sense we want to do the best for each other. The more you know about a fella, you’ll build a bigger bond with him.

“Then on the field when it matters you’ll hopefully shine through.”

Donnellan, more than most, seems aware of the significance that an All-Ireland win can have to an entire county, given that he grew up during Clare’s glory years in 1995 and 1997.

“I was on the field for both of them,” he says. “Great days. It was something I grew up with and it was something that probably made me play hurling. My brothers would have grown up with Italia 90, so they were probably more into soccer, whereas I turned towards hurling.

“It was brilliant. I was lucky enough when I came on to the panel; I would have played with the likes of Seanie, Davy, Brian Lohan and a few more of them that were heroes of mine when I was growing up.

“It gives you a great example and a template you try and match yourself off. You try and have the same values and the same commitment they would have had.”

The star also pays tribute to the man who played an integral role in helping them reach this stage — Davy Fitzgerald — and believes his final experience could ultimately be a vital factor in deciding the outcome of Sunday’s game.

“Davy and the other lads on the management team would have a lot of experience of county finals and Under 21s and things like that. They all have their own (part) in the whole event and everything will be planned for us.

“We’ll know well before what is going to happen and we would take a lot of confidence out of that. We know exactly what we’re going to do and players are creatures of habit. We like to do the same thing or at least we need to know why we are doing things and we’ll plan around that, too.

“We had it the last day in the semi-final and we would be used to it for games in Thurles. We’ll enjoy it definitely to the amount that is healthy for us but we won’t be getting over-excited about any of those things.”

image(Clare’s Patrick Donnellan, goalkeeper Patrick Kelly, Domhnall O’Donovan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Patrick O’Connor and Colm Galvin – INPHO/James Crombie)

Donnellan also acknowledges that Clare have surprised many by reaching this year’s final, with the younger players in particular exceeding expectations.

“They are only a few years younger than us but they would have a very different mentality to what we would have, in some respects. When we are on the Clare team, we all have the one mentality, and they have a huge amount of professionalism and give a huge amount of commitment to Clare.

“The way they apply themselves on the field and off the field is great, and is a great example. Their age means in certain ways they can be a bit more childish but in terms of how they handle themselves and the way they play on the field, it’s definitely a level of maturity that they show beyond their years.”

He thus believes that many of the Clare players’ success at underage level has had a hugely positive influence on the senior team.

“I’d be a firm believer that winning is pure habit. To a certain degree, you have a level of quality and a level of performance where a lot of teams are even; it’s just some teams are more used to winning.

“You would see it in a lot of different sports. A fella might win for four or five years, gets one loss and that’s it, another fella is winning for the next four or five years. It’s not that he has become bad overnight, it’s just once you get into a groove and a habit you have a huge amount of belief in yourself to keep things going.

“The fact [the younger players] have grown up winning and that they have won a good bit underage bodes well for them when they come on to the senior panel.”

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