Dan Shanahan: 'I do have to control myself, I've been warned'
Shanahan revelling in role on the Waterford sidelines and insists Deise can prove the doubters wrong
WATERFORD'S hurlers are some measure of how radically the face of the GAA has changed in the past decade.
Between retirements and injury they face Cork in the cauldron of Munster hurling on Sunday with four debutants, stripped of so many of their famous veterans that Derek McGrath might as well be managing a boyband.
In this era of GPS trackers and complicated match-day formations, one of those legends now cuts an ultra-modern shape on the sideline.
A heavily tattooed inter-county selector who wears baseball caps is a rarity but then, even as a player, Dan Shanahan was a one-off.
The irony is that the one thing the Decies need most right – goals – was Big Dan's speciality.
Much is made of conceding 17 goals in a league campaign that ended in relegation, but more worrying is that Waterford only scored two.
So, can they find them now in the heat of the summer?
"Can you train lads to score goals? No, but do we have the individuals who can get them? Yes, definitely, I believe that 100pc," says the man who scored 21 of them in championship action, including eight in one summer alone (2007).
"Hurling is a team sport, but to get goals you have to be in the right place at the right time and that's instinctive, you just take a chance on where the ball is going to land and on other people mis-hitting it and I took a lot of chances!" he chuckles.
He says that Waterford worked hard, particularly on their movement, in their post-league training week because off-the-ball movement is the key in these days of 'seventh defenders'.
"Hurling has gone so fast and that's to Clare's credit, they've taken it on another level, but I think if I was still playing I'd still get the opportunities and our lads will," Shanahan insists.
"It's all about overlaps now and taking the chance. I tell the lads, always follow the ball, you never know what'll happen. Like, how many fellas catch a puck-out now? Nobody! It's all about breaking ball and Clare made an art of that last summer, you have to give Davy Fitz credit for that."
Waterford's league campaign, he points out, was decimated by injuries and two red cards in vital games, including the one that rules Shane O'Sullivan out for Sunday and Shanahan is sceptical of the new stringency on any head-high touches.
"Shane's one was extremely harsh. I saw other players do the same in other games this year and they didn't even get booked. We can't afford to be without Shane O' Sullivan because the GAA is trying to make a big statement," he says. "It was an absolute pure accident. We saw it last year with (Cork's Pa) Horgan against Limerick, he did nothing and that changed a whole game."
Joining management so quickly with a team that not only includes former team-mates, but his younger brother Maurice (out injured) might have put off some people – but not Shanahan.
"I spent 14 years playing and, after three years out, Derek asked me would I come in. He showed me his plan and I couldn't say no. I've total respect for him, I knew what he was about.
"If one of the fellas has to be dropped, it happens. I'm doing this for Waterford to win, not for individuals or for me, but for Waterford," he stresses.
Since his retirement, the Lismore star has worked as a coach/selector with his club minors, helping them to a long-awaited county title.
"It was our first since 1995 and we beat De La Salle in the county final, so it was a great win and a massive feeling. It was even better than when I was a player," he reveals. "If we beat Cork, it'll be the same."
Shanahan is certainly as passionate on the sideline as on the field and admits it's a struggle sometimes.
"I do have to control myself, I've been warned once or twice! I don't abuse referees or the opposition, I'm just trying to get a message into the lads. I'm the designated 'runner', but I can only go in when the ball is out of play. You want to get on to the field quicker because the players can't hear you, so it's wicked hard sometimes."
He accepts people are writing Waterford off and have been doing so all season. "One or two fellas have had the courage to say it to my face which I'd prefer. A lot haven't, but it's come back to me," he said.
"Look, I just don't think we've been given a good chance yet, with the injuries and the sendings off. That's not an excuse, but we just haven't had any luck and, as a player or manager, you need luck, especially in hurling.
"People in Waterford will usually support you, they're very passionate and you have to be willing to take the criticism. They can call me anything they want, it doesn't bother me, I'm very thick-skinned.
"But if I did hear someone cutting our players then I would step up because I've seen just how hard these lads have worked."