Sunday 17 December 2017

'Big Dan' eyeing Croke Park swansong to complete fairytale at 40

Evergreen Shanahan 'in the best shape' of his career as Lismore set sights on final place

Waterford selector Dan Shanahan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Waterford selector Dan Shanahan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

When you watch Dan Shanahan rampaging up and down the Waterford sideline with his heart on his sleeve the first thing that strikes you is his phenomenal physical conditioning.

Despite turning 40 earlier this month - with seven years of inter-county retirement under his belt - the Déise legend reckons he's in "the best shape" of his hurling career as Lismore set their eyes on a historic Croke Park appearance.

Relegation from Waterford's senior ranks in 2015 was a body blow but serving as selector for the Déise under Derek McGrath offered various valuable nuggets, and Shanahan has been busy putting them to good use on Lismore's road to intermediate success.

"I would definitely say I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," Shanahan claims. "There's stuff I've learned over the last four or five years that lads are doing with county teams. . . we had it back in our day but not as professional as it is now."

'Big Dan' is heading towards the swansong of his 25-year club career, but you'd hardly think it by looking at him, and with tips picked up from dieticians, physios, hurling coaches and strength and conditioning gurus, "there's hardly a day" he doesn't go training.

Between the pitch, the handball alley and the gym, Shanahan is constantly drawn to improvement. There has been a laser beam pulling him towards hurling since his childhood, and it hasn't diminished with time.

"I love being out doing it and love being involved with my club and out hurling, I don't know where I'd be only for it. It's something that's in me. If you have a bad game, you can say 'at least I put in the effort off the field'," he says.

"If it doesn't work out for me at the weekend well and good, best of luck to the Galway boys (tomorrow's semi-final opponents Ahascragh Fohenagh) but I know for one thing I've put my effort in along with all the Lismore lads and that's all you can ask for."

The 2007 Hurler of the Year swells with pride when he pictures the scenes at Fraher Field (after the Waterford IHC final) and Mallow (after their Munster triumph) - at this late juncture it didn't look like adult success would ever materialise for him after years of pain.

"To witness what I witnessed when we beat Kilmoyley in the Munster final was something you dream of," says Shanahan, who is joined in attack by his younger brother Maurice.

"I know it's intermediate hurling, it's a good bit away from senior but some of our lads had never won a game together in adult hurling and now we're one hour away from going to Croke Park.

"I purposely didn't go up the steps in Fraher Field or in Mallow, I just stayed down on the pitch and watched the lads. To see their faces looking down celebrating, I'll never forget it."

Under the management of Tony Browne, the seasonal extras were quickly put to one side over the holidays and a punishing Christmas regime has left them at fever pitch.

Having shared a Waterford dressing-room with Browne for more than a decade, Shanahan knew what to expect.

"To get Tony Browne in with a small club like Lismore and for him to stick with us, because it wasn't all rosy. . . you've nine or 10 lads training during the winter when others are away with college and that. . ." he says.

"He's a fantastic man, a fantastic person off the pitch, and a massive coach on it. Now he's going places coaching; this is one step on Tony's ladder, hopefully it'll be a big step."

For Shanahan this could be his last chance at the big time and he intends on seizing it.

"To be hurling at this time of the year with your club is a treat, for us and for the people of Lismore, the whole place is on a high for the great little town that we have," he says.

"We've been through a barren spell with emigrations, like everyone else, and you never think you're going to get those chances. It's something you dream of. To win something with your own is unbelievable.

"I've won a lot playing with Waterford and I'd won at every grade at underage with Lismore but to finally win an adult county final with the lads was unbelievable. Club hurling is where everything started for me and it's where everything will finish for me."

Irish Independent

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