THIS is Patrick Collins’ time to shine.
The Ballinhassig man has been understudy to Anthony Nash for the last couple of seasons – but now he has the chance to make the Cork number one hurling jersey his own.
Last December Nash announced his retirement from inter-county hurling after a senior career that spanned 16 years and included two All-Stars and four Munster senior hurling titles.
Nash was an ever-present season after season, so his retirement presents an opportunity for Collins, who is the man tipped to take ownership of the Cork goalkeeper job.
‘It’s an opportunity that I’d like to get, but there are more goalkeepers in the running too,’ he says.
‘There is competition for it and any of us can get the nod so I’m putting the head down and trying to nail down the spot.’
Patrick Collins (24) is the front runner. His younger brother Ger is also in the running. That’s an interesting dynamic – two brothers battling for the one spot on a senior inter-county team, as well as with their club.
‘We have a healthy enough relationship!’ Collins smiles, adding that during the recent lockdown the two trained together and that made it more bearable than going solo like so many team-mates had to. Competing for that one position is nothing new to Patrick and Ger after growing up in a house full of goalkeepers.
Their father, Pat, played in goal for Ballinhassig. An older brother Matthew played minor, U21 and intermediate for Cork. Ger lined out for the minors and U20s. Then there’s Michael who played in goal, too. So, why are there so many goalkeepers in the one household? It all comes back to their father.
‘He played in goal for the club,’ Patrick explains.
‘Growing up, when we were playing out the back garden the youngest was thrown into goal so we all got our chance at it.
‘With the club as well, we have a strong tradition of goalkeepers. I played a bit outfield as well but when I was 13 or 14 years old, the age group above me were stuck for a goalkeeper – that’s when I got put into goal and I developed on from there. It’s my full-time position now.’
Cork has always been well stocked in top-class goalkeepers. Think Nash, Donal Óg Cusack, Ger Cunningham, Martin Coleman. Cork have been spoilt for choice, Collins says, and he took inspiration from shot-stoppers outside of the county, too.
‘When I was growing up I looked a lot towards Brendan Cummins in Tipperary; he was a top-class goalkeeper. You had Davy Fitz, Donal Óg – you had a fine pick there.’
And Collins, a former Cork minor and U21, considers himself lucky to have learned the ropes from Anthony Nash. The Ballinhassig keeper soaked in as much knowledge as he could.
‘Coming in as a young fella, Anthony brought me in under his wing a small bit. I watched him closely over the last few years and tried to learn as much as I could off him,’ he explained.
‘Since he made the decision to step away, (becoming number one) is something I am working towards. I’m looking forward to that opportunity.’
Collins has been in and around the senior set-up since he was a teen. He made his senior debut in the Waterford Crystal Cup win against UL in January 2015. A year later, March 2016, he made his national league debut against Kilkenny at Páirc Uí Rinn.
‘I came in at a young age and I wasn’t too long out of Leaving Cert, and what I noticed first was the time and commitment Anthony put in; it was unbelievable. Also, the detail that he went into in training is scary enough! I was in a great position, I was there to watch it all and I tried to learn as much as I could off him along the way,’ said Collins – and the apprentice is now ready to become the master.
Cork begin their Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A campaign at home to Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this Sunday (3.45pm throw-in). Collins hopes to get the nod. If he gets his chance, he is determined to take it.
He has been waiting patiently in the wings season after season, and now he wants the chance to show Kieran Kingston that he deserves to be the man to replace Nash.
Off the pitch Collins is working as a Garda and is based in Cork City, having come out of Templemore in March 2020. He loves the job. He’d love to be Cork’s number one, too – and he’s ready to take his chance when he gets its.