Shanahan aiming to bridge title gap

DAN SHANAHAN was 16-years-old when Lismore were last crowned Waterford SHC champions but even then his talents set him apart as something special.

He was introduced as a semi-final substitute against a Roanmore side that included his uncle Tom Shanahan, and in a fairytale ending the teenager rifled over the winning point in the dying seconds. Though he failed to land a start in the county final he was again sprung from the bench and helped Lismore edge out Passage East in that 1993 decider.

But the good times didn’t roll on from there. More often than tomorrow’s final opponents, Ballygunner were the roadblock to their ambitions. The record of their 12 championship clashes makes for depressing reading if you are a Lismore man with the Gunners winning 11 while the other game ended in a draw.

Shanahan doesn’t beat about the bush about the statistic. He admitted: "It really is time to put some measure of respectability on that and there’s no better time than the present to do so."

While the majority of tomorrow’s Ballygunner outfit claimed county honours four years ago, Shanahan will be just one of three Lismore players — along with James Joxer O’Connor and Dave Bennett — with a senior medal.

"That great day in my career seems a whole world away now and my sole focus is on tomorrow’s final. We will be going into the game as outsiders but we will be giving it a right go and I believe we have a 50/50 chance."

The former Hurler Of The Year has painful memories of their 4-12 to 1-16 defeat to the Gunners in the 2001 final.

"We might have won it, but they had a much more experienced team and it was that greater level of experience that won it for them."

While Lismore have only a handful of survivors from that decider of eight years ago, they have also introduced several exciting young players into the squad and Shanahan has been impressed by the mindset.

"They have shown in their most recent victories over Abbeyside (last year’s beaten finalists) and Ballyduff Upper (champions in 2007) all the steel, all the resolve, and most of all the hurling that’s needed to win big games. Our training has gone as well as we would have ever wanted it to, and all of the lads are ready for what lies ahead. Gunners will be the favourites and deservedly so after seeing off De La Salle in the quarter-final and Mount Sion in the semi-final.

"You can’t lay claim to more impressive credentials than those. They have done well under Ger Cunningham with a side that is supposedly in transition, and they will be very hard to beat. But that’s our job and there’s no point in going out there tomorrow unless I, and we, believe we can.

But maybe there is a chance of history repeating. Back in 1993 a teenage Shanahan was making headlines, and on Sunday, another member of the clan hopes to do likewise.

"Maurice has been magnificent all through the campaign," Dan says of his 19-year-old brother.

"We probably wouldn’t be in this final without his massive scoring input, but having said that it really has been more a team effort than anything else along the way," he says.