Shine a light
Published 30/07/2010 | 05:00
For 30 seconds or so the scoreboard didn't change, continuing to portray the Connacht final as a 0-13 each draw. Roscommon selector Declan Hoare looked around to his sideline colleagues and they too wore quizzical expressions.
Wasn't it a perfect score? Was another provincial final controversy about to blow up in the GAA's faces? Finally, the scoreboard operator made his change and the winner was registered.
Once again, it was Donie Shine, just as he had done in Ennis less than four years earlier when the county minor team landed the All-Ireland title against Kerry after a replay. The man for the occasion.
Then, it was Shine running on to Niall Carthy's incisive pass for the insurance point from play, making the score 1-10 to 0-9 and beyond Kerry's reach. This time the stakes were even higher.
Sligo had closed a four-point gap and were pressing when Roscommon got some respite. When they won the free, Hoare just couldn't help feeling that Shine would convert, even from such a difficult angle tight to the sideline.
"You always get the feeling that Donie is made for these kicks. He'll miss easier ones, as he did that day, but given the circumstances we wouldn't have doubted him -- even when the scoreboard didn't change," he said.
"Nothing fazes him. He had missed three other frees that he probably would have expected to get in the Connacht final. But the harder the kick, the more Donie challenges himself to get it. He thrives in that situation."
It was his 10th point of the afternoon, bringing his total haul in the championship over three games against London, Leitrim and now Sligo to 1-26, 0-21 from frees and '45s'. Roscommon's tradition of producing great long-range free-takers such as Dermot Earley and Derek Duggan had been solidified.
Those who were at McHale Park 18 years earlier for the drawn Connacht final will inevitably draw comparisons with Duggan's equaliser at the death from 55 metres. The angles and distance were different, but the significance of both kicks will not be lost on any Roscommon supporter.
After the final whistle 12 days ago, a jubilant Fergal O'Donnell recalled how some had referenced him as 'Donie Shannon' -- an illustration for the manager of the dearth of respect his team were being shown. No one is likely to make the same mistake again.
His father shares the same name and has a legacy going back to the 1980s when he was first a player and then manager of the great Clan na Gael team, from just outside Athlone, that lost four successive All-Ireland club finals from 1987 to 1990.
Shine Snr would later go on to manage teams to county titles in Longford and Westmeath and these days, when he is not back managing the Clan na Gael senior team again, he is the more placid half of the Shannonside radio commentary team led by their colourful anchor Willie Hegarty.
Against that football background, Donie Jnr was always going to gravitate towards Gaelic football but there was a time in his mid-teens -- just as O'Donnell's progressive minor team were emerging -- where golf equally consumed him.
Fourballs with his father, John O'Gara and others were popular and his handicap quickly dived to single figures. "When we took over the minors," recalled Hoare, "golf was a big thing with him."
Under O'Donnell and his team, Roscommon came from left field to win the 2006 minor championship with Shine the leading light in attack as Meath and then Kerry were put to the sword in an All-Ireland semi-final and final.
The following summer, injuries to Shine and Carthy were disruptive, but they still led the Connacht final by two points with 10 minutes to go when they were reduced to 14 men and lost the initiative. Many felt they were capable of retaining both provincial and All-Ireland titles that season, but the luck which was with them in 2006 deserted them.
The environment for the young stars of that team has been difficult at senior level and for Hoare it wasn't until they had the oxygen of the Connacht U-21 title that they started to thrive again.
Shine has brought his game up a few notches in the last few months after an indifferent couple of seasons. Mick Bohan, who was one of his coaches at DCU where Shine failed to nail down a starting place on the first 15 for the Sigerson Cup triumph, is sure the player has not yet even come close to maximising his potential.
There were mitigating circumstances for his omission from the college team at the critical point of the season. He had been sent off in an O'Byrne Cup game, wrongly in the estimation of DCU, who were unable to procure the video of the incident from Offaly to substantiate that viewpoint. He missed four weeks of college activity and by the time he returned the team was up and running.
"In fairness to him he was sent off in the wrong, he missed valuable time with DCU and just couldn't break back in. It's a short window," recalled Bohan. "Even when he came on in the final for the last seven minutes, there would have been concerns about throwing any player into such a high-tempo game."
If Shine does have a fault, it's the pace at which he does things with the ball. He can be laboured and relaxed, but that is something Bohan feels he is adjusting to.
"There's a huge challenge for Donie out there to get the most out of the talent he has," said Bohan, who was in the opposing camp later in the year when the Dublin U-21s took out Roscommon in an All-Ireland semi-final.
"Technically, he does most things very well. He's a great fielder, he kicks well, his free-taking speaks for itself. With DCU you would always be looking at his strengths, with Dublin U-21 I was looking at his weaknesses. Rory O'Carroll held him scoreless in the semi-final. He has to speed things up in his game and it's something I think he will do."
Bohan believes the best won't come from Shine until he is fully developed.
"His body is only part of the way there. He's a confident lad, but he is still only 21," Bohan said. "His range can be anything up to 55 metres for a kick off the ground. I think it will take another couple of years to get him right up there. But his attitude to it is great."
For now though, Roscommon will take the Donie Shine they have, the man for the occasion with nerves of steel.