No pain, no gain working with The Man

MIND your heads while I throw in the first cliché, if I may; in sport, there’s no gain without pain.

Mostly however, there’s no gain despite the pain. Just ask a Waterford hurler.

I pulled on a pair of running shoes and fell in behind almost-greatness as he lapped the local GAA pitch these past pregnant days before the season’s end.

Running alongside Dan Shanahan, we drew right angles in the corners of Dungarvan’s Fraher Field as if Davy Fitz himself was watching us on Google Maps on his laptop back in Clare.

A relaxed Shanahan did not seem like a man marching inexorably towards his last game. After 13 years on the inter-county dance floor, the final game of his Waterford career is now rising in the east.

If he was frisked on the way through the Croke Park gate on Sunday morning, the Garda would toss four Munster championship medals and three All-Stars onto the floor beside the Lismore man’s wallet and car keys. I’m sure he doesn’t carry his National League medal around.

Later that day, a defeat to Tipperary in Dublin will see the curtain fall at last on the Lismore man’s time in the national spotlight — after almost a decade and a half of wonderful goals’n’gums.

But defeat their near neighbours and rivals and the blue and white roadshow stays on the tracks as Kilkenny’s freight train whistles into sight again.

If it ends there — a casualty to history while the Noresiders park the drive-for-five — Shanahan will know he’s trained as much as any of those marching behind the Artane Band. You control that much. And live with the rest.

Now, he’s trotting down the sideline in an Argentina shirt, distinctive tattoos flicking from beneath his short three-striped sleeves. Like Marco ‘Matrix’ Materazzi — the Italian centre half/footballing assassin who commemorated his World Cup and Champions League victories with vivid tats of the respective trophies — Shanahan will surely have to ink a painful portrait on his body of the Liam MacCarthy Cup if Tipp and then the Cats are accounted for?

“My god,” he laughs, “You can do it yourself — full size and on my back or something, with the date underneath it .” Silence for a moment, “That’d be nice.”

But, no pain, no gain — in tattoos and sport.

This is supposed to be a day off the training for Shanahan. He was put through his paces by Fitzy and co last night. And the same tomorrow. After this run he’ll go back to work. Tonight he might grab a quick massage or a swim.

“The sport now is a completely different ball game compared to when I started . The stuff you would have got away with wouldn’t happen now for sure,” he day dreams.

“You could go out every night and still play a match — the speed of the game, the skill, the mental side has all changed since myself, Ken and Tony started I suppose 12 or 13 years ago. But it’s changed for the better.

“Players are much faster and much stronger. When you see what has to go into it to even stay competitive... It’s certainly semi-professional. Games are harder to win.

“I do a lot of my own. You get a programme at the start of the year. I kept back on the weights this year and concentrated more on the flexibility and core work; that’s all the rage at the moment.”

And has ‘Dan the Man’ filed into the local community centre for a yoga class, like Roy Keane?

“I’ve never done the bit of yoga — you wouldn’t have the time — with your own training and your hurling training with Davy then and the selectors. It’s time consuming.

“I’m lucky enough to be in full employment at the moment. So it’s hard to fit in all the training. Your family suffers, to be honest with you. I’ve a daughter now who’s 11 and she’s never been on holiday.

“But I’ll call it a day after this season — it takes up an awful lot of time — but I love it. I absolutely love it, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finish. If I’m not playing I love encouraging the lads when they play and stuff like that.”

The sweat, as we head past the grandstand again, is now hopping off one of us. (I’m reminded of Carla’s response, when Norm admits he ‘may perspire a bit’, in Cheers; ‘We could grow rice’) Shanahan however seems as cool as one of his finishes in to the far corner. He looks like a man who’d stand up well to harsh studio lights in a life after sliotars.

“I’d like to get into the media side of things after I finish. I know the game having played it up to now. The speed of the game and everything. Some people can’t see things on the line that should be seen and I would be interested in that now. Radio or television... it would be interesting.

“It’s nice to put your point across, to give players that aren’t maybe getting the thanks for runs that aren’t seen or whatever, rather than the players who are getting the points and then the credit.”

After running less than a mile in his shoes, we sit back into Shanahan’s car. the familiar tattoo flashes across his forearm: “If you don’t know me, don’t judge me.” If the last full stop in his artful career is inked on Sunday, we will certainly feel we’ve known him. But maybe his final hurling judgement will come in September.

Dan Shanahan uses the adidas micoach. To become faster for your sport, download the adidas miCoach app and run in Supernova trainers. Visit to find out more

Twitter: @adrianrussell

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