Youngster Leads Clare to All-Ireland Glory
Nineteen year old Shane O’Donnell wasn’t selected to play for his county when they met up with favorites Cork back on the 8th of September. He was considered a future star, but the student’s time had not yet come.
Manager Davy Fitzgerald instead opted for a more experienced player with Clare’s hope of ending a sixteen year drought on the line.
Fitzgerald’s decision could hardly be faulted as Clare had to come from behind late in the match with a late goal and a point in the closing stages of injury time to level the match at 0-25 to 3-16 and send it to a replay. (For those unfamiliar with hurling, scores are listed in two parts, goals and points. Goals count as three and points count as one.)
Rather than play overtime or go to a shootout, draws in hurling result in a replay. That meant that the two teams would meet again on Saturday to settle the score. Fitzgerald once again had a decision to make, and this time he opted for the talented young star, who just happens to attend university in Cork. His choice was rewarded when the nineteen year old scored a hat trick in the first eighteen minutes of the match.
While most players go for points to keep the scoreboard ticking over, one watching O’Donnell could’ve been forgiven for thinking that the rules had been changed since he had just one thing on his mind each time he touched the ball. His positioning was fantastic, and his runs at the net created just the space he needed to set up three beautiful finishes.
In other sports, most players, especially those that young, would have egos that matched their play. Not O’Donnell, though. His sincere elation over the win was met with overwhelming thanks to his teammates, his manager, and the thousands who had made the cross country trip to Dublin for the replay of the final. He showed tremendous maturity in understanding just how much it meant to his entire county during difficult economic times, and he was more than happy to share the victory and credit for it with as many people as possible.
For those who don’t know, hurling is an amateur sport. Players take it seriously and train throughout the year, though they receive no monetary compensation for their efforts. They have regular lives, going to school and/or working just as anyone else does, and do all of their training around those schedules. This is part of the reason that the players are so widely supported and that hurling is such an event in Ireland. The players are regular members of the community, not highly paid celebrities separated from their fans.
For all of the turmoil that has happened to the Irish economy in recent years, a young nineteen year old amateur hurler who wasn’t even in the squad for the first match managed to lift his county by playing the game of his life. Upon doing so, he humbly shared the credit for the win, had his celebrations, and returned to his otherwise normal life. In an age of so much vanity and where so many sports have been ruined by too much money, it’s refreshing to see a humble young man play his best for nothing more than love of the game and his county.