*Clare U20 hurling captain, Paddy Donnellan. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
One of four Under 20’s that received invaluable senior experience with Brian Lohan this year, Paddy Donnellan is currently the only one of that quartet still available for Clare’s opening provincial Under 20 bout against Kerry in Austin Stack Park in Tralee on Monday evening (7.30pm).
With chief marksman Mark Rodgers now ineligible due to his Munster Senior Championship cameos, and Cian Galvin (knee) and Shane Meehan (hand) both nursing injuries, the inspirational Broadford dynamo leads out the Banner for the first time as captain in a team full of captains.
“It’s adds a bit to it to be captain of the team but really this is a very strong panel and there have been a lot of lads to the age that have been driving the squad on while a few of us were training with the seniors. So when we came back in, you could really see that there were eight or nine players to the age that were really driving it on and hopefully that leadership will be demonstrated on the pitch too come Monday evening against Kerry”.
Donnellan made his debut for the seniors against Antrim in the opening round of National League in Belfast in early May, the first of many the versatile defender hopes in the future. “It was great for myself, Cian, Shane and Mark as it definitely brought us on as well so it’s been a very positive experience overall. Every day you go training with the seniors, you’re learning something new and hopefully anything I’ve learned or gathered, I have tried to pass on to the Under 20’s. It’s very important that we try to get the most out of every player.”
Even the uncharted waters of being this group’s first competitive outing against Kerry doesn’t unduly concern this Clare squad as regardless of absentees, there is a determined air of confidence and assuredness to succeed this time around after five success first round exits.
“Going down to Kerry can be daunting enough when we don’t know what to expect but it can also be a good thing because we’re going into every game now just focusing on ourselves. We don’t know much about Kerry as we wouldn’t have played them at underage so instead we’ve just concentrated on ourselves and making sure that we’re the best that we can be.
“And the bottom line is that we know that if we go into it one hundred per cent mentally, physically and tactically, we won’t have any regrets regardless of the outcome because we can do no more.That’s a great position to be in as we ultimately don’t know what to expect but we’re really looking forward to just getting out on the field on Monday night.”