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'He has lit up the place since he came home' - impact of O'Donnell's return on the Banner

Patrick O’Connor, David Fitzgerald and Donal Moloney on the Eire Og star.

Shane O'Donnell is tackled by Waterford's Shane Fives.
Shane O'Donnell is tackled by Waterford's Shane Fives.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SINCE RETURNING FROM Harvard University at the end of March, Shane O’Donnell has helped bring Clare to “a different level” according to his teammates.

O’Donnell spent the winter and spring at the famed Boston college on a Fulbright Scholarship and returned to Clare training in perfect time to assist with their championship preparations.

The Ennis attacker made quite the impact in his first inter-county outing of 2019 on Sunday assisting John Conlon for the decisive goal in their one point victory, scoring a point for himself plus demonstrating his typical work rate.

Captain Patrick O’Connor was in awe of how the 2013 hat-trick hero managed to lift the spirits of the panel upon his return, coming at a time when it was announced that Jamie Shanahan and Conor McGrath were unlikely to feature for Banner this year.

“What can you say about him, he is a special and unique person to do what he did,” said O’Connor. “The leadership he has shown, he has lit up the place since he came home, always talking, always encouraging.

“It’s great for the young lads like Gary Cooney, Colin Guilfoyle to be feeding off him plus learning from John (Conlon) and Peter (Duggan), that’s the type of environment we’ve managed to foster.”

Noel Connors with Patrick O'Connor Noel Connors shakes hands with Patrick O'Connor after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Wing back David Fitzgerald was thankful he was not asked by Donal Moloney or Gerry O’Connor to line out in the full-back line when O’Donnell returned to training as he destroyed every player assigned to him.

“On his first or second session back, I forget who he was in on, one of more established backs I think and Shane was absolutely flying it, I’d say he was only off the plane a few days,” he said.

“It’s a testament to the athlete he is, he could throw his hand at anything both academically and from a sporting perspective, it’s just a different level.”

Fitzgerald who is completing a masters degree in aviation finance at UCD had to balance his championship preparation with studying for exams.

As Clare stayed overnight in Waterford ahead of the Munster SHC first round, the Inagh/Kilnamona man had to try put aside a few hours in the morning of the game at Faithlegg House Hotel for study but maintained the relationship between hurling and education is mutually beneficial.

“Hurling and study they correlate, when you’re frustrated with one, you look to the other and one is not going so well you can talk to the other. It’s about a good balance, a lot of the lads find that when you’re playing sport, people think it’s your sole focus but academics is important for people too because at the end of the day it’s an amateur sport.”

Shane O'Donnell before the match Shane O'Donnell before the Fenway Hurling Classic. Source: Emily Harney/INPHO

How O’Donnell managed to stay fit and practice his ball work over in the United States came as no surprise to joint-manager Donal Moloney.

“He hasn’t played since Galway last August, Shane is very sharp, he kept his fitness and kept doing some ball work over in Boston, when he came back in eight weeks ago it was almost like he hadn’t been away.

“The trouble is if he keeps up this form we’ll get to play nobody in the National League next year.”

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Páraic McMahon

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