A shortened season proves to be just the right choice for Clare’s Shane O’Donnell – The Irish Times

Shane O’Donnell appears to be as elusive in interviews as he is on the field.

Asked if he is still thinking about retiring and traveling abroad as he said last November, Clare’s All Star forward said: “It’s a bit of the same situation. I take it year after year. I wouldn’t rule out playing next year, but I wouldn’t absolutely say, ‘Yes, I would.’

Could winning the All-Ireland decisively shift his considerations?

“You could make an argument for both, but I don’t think either would really – from my current point of view I don’t think you win the All-Ireland or you don’t win the All-Ireland; both would have reasons for me to essentially go back, so yeah, I don’t think I could make a decision based on that.

It has now become clear that he is not really elusive. He’s just not sure what his attitude will be at the end of the championship.

One thing he’s pretty sure of is that if he didn’t condition his seasons, retirement could be on the horizon at this point, if it hadn’t already happened.

“That’s definitely true. If I had to go through 10 or 11 month seasons, I don’t know if I would still be playing. And if it were, I would retire this year.”

O’Donnell turns 30 this year and returned to the county job in time to play a role in the final victory over Kilkenny. Since then his season has started with excellent performances: the disappointing defeat to Limerick on the first weekend of the championship in Ennis and the redeeming victory in Cork last weekend.

He provided very similar assists for Aidan McCarthy’s goal against Limerick and Mark Rodgers’ goal last weekend, adding one himself on the second day.

Originally, it was a concussion three years ago that caused him to skip the season until March. He had previously told how Clare manager Brian Lohan had approached him in January 2022 about returning to training, but he delayed his return for a few months until medical advice was clear. It was his decision, but nothing stopped him from resuming his hurling career. .

It’s been a career so far. His burst in the 2013 All-Ireland final replay against Cork as a teenager produced a hat-trick of goals inside 19 minutes, but the ensuing years failed to maintain that trajectory – until the past two seasons, when Clare established themselves as Limerick’s biggest rivals by to finish at the top of the Munster table, narrowly losing both finals.

O’Donnell has been highly influential both years, winning his first two All Stars in 2022 and ’23.

He attributes his form to taking a long break and effectively skipping the competition.

“I’ll spend the off-season keeping in touch, working out and doing that kind of work, and then as the March deadline approaches I’ll start training again. I might have three or four weeks of running to prepare for that and I’ll fit back into panel training in early March.

‘You’d be surprised how quickly it comes around. The swing stuff, it’s on the couch. Anyone who has played inter-county for eight or ten years can take a break and pick it up again in a week or two.

“I notice that it works very well for me. Whether it’s physical energy coming back, I don’t think that’s the case. It’s more of a psychological benefit – if that’s the right word; I can bring in a lot of energy again because I haven’t trained for a number of months and I think that will ensure that I can perform when I become champion.”

When asked about the “leap of faith” that this abbreviated preparation will work for him every year, he says the same leap of faith is necessary if you have six months of intensive training.

He has even gone so far as to recommend the approach to fellow veterans on the Clare panel.

As someone with strong opinions about the purpose of the competition, O’Donnell nonetheless accepts that it was important for Clare to win April’s final.

“I think winning the final was important. I wouldn’t put much value on a good competition in general, but when it came to the final, winning that match was important.”

He also acknowledges that beating Kilkenny – who have beaten them in the last two All-Ireland semi-finals – was “an important milestone”.

A former Fulbright scholar at Harvard, he loved Boston after the excesses of his post-2013 fame, for its antithesis to the city’s famous fictional bar – Cheers – where no one knew his name.

Career is important – he now works with Sano Genetics, which builds software to run clinical trials – and the opportunity to travel is always there and something that interests him.

Right now, what may – or may not – be his final season is in full swing, but he’s taking the time next weekend (Clare isn’t playing) to take part in the Darkness into Light walk.

“I think everyone is aware of someone who is negatively affected by it (mental health). My girlfriend is a clinical psychologist, so I am a bit more aware of it, but I am also aware of where my boundaries of understanding and not understanding lie.”

Shane O’Donnell was speaking at the launch of Darkness Into Light 2024. O’Donnell is teaming up with Electric Ireland and Pieta for Darkness Into Light, which takes place on Saturday 11 May. People can register to participate in this year’s event at darkintolight.ie.