Friday 20 September 2019

We can hurl but we have heart too - Dowling

At only 22, Shane Dowling displays a maturity and foresight beyond his tender years
At only 22, Shane Dowling displays a maturity and foresight beyond his tender years
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

You'd think a Munster club SHC final would be the only thing occupying his mind, but there's a deeper side to Shane Dowling.

After overcoming Thurles Sarsfields in a titanic battle on Sunday, the overriding emotion of the Limerick ace was empathy.

The untimely passing of Sars' selector Jack Griffin two weeks ago had struck a chord with everyone and put the game into perspective.

"We were in the dressing room before the game when Larry Hogan, our kitman, came around and put black tape around our arm as a mark of respect," Dowling said. "I was thinking, 'Can you imagine when the black tape is going around the Thurles fellas' arms, what they must be feeling?'

"I only ever lost one person through a road traffic accident, who I only kind of knew, and I still got some hit so I can just imagine what they must have been going through.

"The training regime - everything probably went out the window. It was very, very tough for them and, listen, Munster clubs, county championships, sport is very small compared to stuff like that."

The honesty of the All-Star attacker is refreshing. And at only 22, he displays a maturity and foresight beyond his tender years.

Despite inter-county and club commitments, he appreciates the importance of giving something back to your roots and is managing the Na Piarsaigh U-10 hurlers.

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Speaking at the Go Head to Head for the AIB Munster Senior Hurling Club Championship Title, Dowling admitted that it's a labour of love ensuring a bright future for the Cahirdavin club.

"Just because you are an inter-county player doesn't mean you shouldn't be getting involved because you are too big - I think that's a load of rubbish.

"I'd actually go to bed some nights thinking of different players and how we can improve them so I can only imagine how Shane O'Neill (Na Piarsaigh) or TJ Ryan (Limerick) goes to bed.

"I am very conscious that while we have a great team now, and while we have had good underage success, who is to say in 10 or 15 years' time that you won't be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

"I love Na Piarsaigh and I don't want to see them falling behind in anything. If I have time whatever I can give back, I will give back."

For a side unbeaten in eight Munster SHC matches and vying for a third provincial title in five years this Sunday against Ballygunner, it's worth noting that a previous defeat still rankles them.

Na Piarsaigh were favourites for the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final loss to subsequent champions Loughgiel Shamrocks but they fell for their own hype.

They took the Antrim side for granted and they paid the price, leaving Parnell Park with their tail between their legs.

The race for Tommy Moore has opened up significantly this year with the absence of heavy hitters like Ballyhale and Portumna, but Dowling insists lessons have been learnt.

"We didn't show Loughgiel enough respect at the time. It was as simple as that. We have vowed to each other that under no circumstance will we look beyond the next game again.


"We've learned our lesson from that, just play it game by game. If you're looking ahead it's a waste of time so we are just solely focused on Ballygunner."

Acquaintances will be renewed with the Waterford champions after their 2011 Walsh Park clash, which saw a second-half fightback similar to this year's win against Sixmilebridge.

Such character delights Dowling.

"Within Limerick there'd be a lot of pressure on us to perform but we'd also be a city team so the words 'townies' and 'softies' would be thrown at us a lot," he said.

"There's nothing worse than people saying that you're a good hurling side but when it gets thrown up to them they can shy away.

"I think over the past number of years we have shown that although we can hurl we have a bit of heart as well."

Dowling is in favour of proposals to play the club championship within the calendar year but he does appreciate the unique demands of winter hurling.

While Na Piarsaigh have a fresh injection of youthful exuberance with players like Peter Casey, Ronan Lynch and David Dempsey, the deadly freetaker believes they are showing new levels of maturity and are ready to deliver.

"Ballygunner's performance against the Glen (Rovers) and our performance against Thurles, it wasn't skill, skill doesn't win these game in November," he said.

"It's just the hard work and if Ballygunner work harder than us on Sunday the chances are they will probably win the game so we have to make sure that doesn't happen."

With players like Dowling leading the charge, Na Piarsaigh are no longer considered a soft touch and they may be ready to make further history.

Irish Independent

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