'Scapegoat' Dan desperate to prove critics wrong
HURLER of the Year Dan Shanahan has revealed how difficult life in his native county is at the moment after the Waterford team's hammering against Clare and the subsequent vote of no confidence in axed manager Justin McCarthy.
After being taken off against the Banner, Shanahan was visibly upset, but the Lismore man was even more distressed upon hearing that his young daughter Chloe had witnessed a supporter screaming abuse at him from the stands. He says he will now ask his child to stay away from his games in the future.
"There are a few supporters that are unhappy alright, and it's tough in Waterford at the moment," the brilliant forward admitted. "Genuine supporters who have been following the team should just come out and back us from here on in. Just come out, go to the matches and support the players and don't be slating them. My daughter was at the Clare match and there was this lad behind her in the crowd absolutely slating me. She's only nine years of age and she was in tears. You just don't need that and I've told her not to go to any more games. I play hurling because I love it and I love my team-mates, but I don't need that sort of thing.
"When you're winning matches with the county, everyone thinks you're great, but I've learned that things can turn quickly. I'm learning that a lot of people have short memories though."
Shanahan, who, let's not forget, scored a sensational 6-28 in last year's championship, freely admitted that he was nowhere near his best during the team's recent Munster quarter-final defeat to Clare. He says injuries have hampered his season to date but doesn't want to use that as an excuse.
"The injury set me back. I rarely get injured. I couldn't do anything in Portugal -- mentally as well it was a setback. It put me back. Then I came back a week after and I wasn't 100 per cent fit. But I'm not blaming that either. It is tough when you know you have it in you but it isn't coming out of you. You look at your opponent and you are saying to yourself: 'Okay, he is after improving but I'm playing badly.' But I had a chat with myself after Clare and focused on the positives. There weren't many to take that day. There were only two or three of us who could hold our heads up high."
The evening of that loss only got worse for the gentle giant who turned on the Sunday Game and felt he was the centre of criticism from pundits. "To be honest, it was very hurtful," he admitted at the launch of the new adidas TechFit PowerWeb Range last week. "I know that I was poor against Clare, but it takes a big man to admit he was bad in a match. I've no problem admitting that, and I've never had a problem being taken off in a game.
"I've been taken off a number of times in matches, but it's never been because I haven't tried. I've been trying my heart out in training for the past three weeks to get back to full fitness, and I've always given total commitment to any man I've trained for. As for those so-called experts up there, and there are a lot of them, I'm telling you now I'm going to prove them wrong. The only way I can do that is the next time we play, and hopefully I will and so will the rest of the team.
"Those so-called experts like to cause controversy, but I didn't like the way they used my name to do it. I'm only one member of a team, and I didn't think it was fair to highlight me the way they did. It's easy for these lads to have a go at you like that but, at the end of the day, they know nothing about me. It's not just me it affects, my mother and father have to listen to that too. Hundreds of thousands of people watch the Sunday Game and they made a scapegoat of me in front of them all."
Shanahan admitted that getting rid of McCarthy was a tough task and accepts the team is now in the line of fire. "Definitely it was hard, I mean to change a manager -- it was a hard thing to do," he says.
"When it's all blown over, I'll definitely be able to tell the whole story but I just cannot talk about it now. We have to prove ourselves. But I don't think we are the only team who have to do that. Limerick, Galway have to do that as well. Cork have a point to prove after last week. But we have made ourselves a target."
Still, Shanahan hopes Waterford can kickstart the 2008 season under Davy Fitzgerald. "I can guarantee you now that if I stay injury-free, I will be ready for our next match. Against Clare, I wasn't running into positions I was last year, but maybe that's because I wasn't fit enough to.
"Hopefully, Davy can teach us a few things and if he brings some added steel to the team then we have the rest of what we need. It can help a team just having a fresh voice and someone with a different way of doing things. If he f**ks me out of it for not playing well, then it's up to me to do something about it, and maybe that would help me. We definitely still believe that we're good enough to win an All-Ireland final."