The Big Interview with Dan and Maurice Shanahan: Lismore's brothers in arms

For five seasons, the Shanahan brothers, Dan and Maurice, worked together as selector and player with Waterford. The Déise isn’t on their agendas right now but they fill the same roles now with Lismore as they prepare for a county SHC quarter-final. And at the age of 43, Dan in his 28th season is still togging out
The Big Interview with Dan and Maurice Shanahan: Lismore's brothers in arms

Dan and Maurice Shanahan: The Lismore brothers are enjoying revised format of the the club championship in Waterford this summer. Picture: Howard Crowdy

John Fogarty: When Lismore were struggling in the early 2010s, there was talk about the club amalgamating with Ballysaggart at adult level. Now both clubs are senior. Was it ever on the cards?

Dan Shanahan: I could never have seen it happening. We’re joined together under-age and we’ve won a lot under-age. They wouldn’t have won county titles without us and we wouldn’t have won county titles without them. Would I like to have seen it? I might have but when you’re seeing Ballysaggart at senior level from junior it’s a huge credit to them and for the village and the people out there. There are so many small clubs at the moment that would love to amalgamate but they won’t because of old history. This fella’s grandfather played for this club. My own father played for Ballysaggart but I’m a Lismore man. I have to give credit to the schools in Lismore for producing the fellas who keep coming through for both clubs.

JF: There was speculation that you might retire when Lismore were relegated in 2015. You were 38 at the time. How difficult a time was that for you?

Dan: It was a very strange time. We met De La Salle in the relegation final and if you looked at it from the start of the year the pair of us were favourites to make the county final. The biggest crowd of the year was at that relegation final. I can’t remember when we were ever not senior so to be relegated was tough. Tony Browne came in and helped us and to come straight back the following year, That was so important because intermediate hurling, especially in Waterford particularly in West Waterford, is tough to win. It’s so important for the under-age players to see the adult team playing senior.

JF: You were an All-Star in 2015, Maurice. Relegation must have been a time of mixed emotions for you?

Maurice Shanahan: It was a down time for the club. When we were growing up, the lads were always contesting semi-finals and finals. But we got Tony in and said at the start of 2016 that we had to come back up straight away otherwise we could be down there for years. We put our heads down.

JF: Do you have any tattoos declaring your allegiance to Lismore like your brother?

Maurice: I have two but nothing like his, no.

Dan: I had a Celtic design one and I wanted to brighten it up a bit. I wanted to acknowledge where I come from. I’m a Lismore man all my life, I’m a Lismore man through and through and always will be. It’s not something I like showing off. The photographer just caught a snap of it last weekend because it was so warm. I couldn’t find a Lismore top so I put on a sleeveless one and the next thing the fella is taking pictures of us coming into Fraher Field.

A detailed view of a tattoo on the shoulder of Dan Shanahan of Lismore. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
A detailed view of a tattoo on the shoulder of Dan Shanahan of Lismore. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

JF: Lismore have long been known as a free-flowing team, the great entertainers in a way. It’s not a bad tag to have but it has drawbacks too.

Maurice: It’s a big worry conceding what we conceded last weekend but as forwards we’re happy with what we’re scoring and if it comes down to a shootout we’ll fancy our chances against anyone. I have no doubt our backs will tighten up because we have some great backs. We concede but we score. Look, it’s still a concern because Abbeyside have forwards who can hurt us.

JF: Dan, you would appreciate from Justin McCarthy’s time in charge that there aren’t too many prizes for entertaining.

Dan: 100%. But a lot of the games at the moment are high scoring and I think it’s because of the good weather and conditions we’re playing in. The clubs are loving playing at this time of year. We seem to be lucky in Waterford too as regards Covid and getting the games played. But as a selector as well as a player, you can’t be happy when we concede 4-19 but Dungarvan are a good team. You can’t keep conceding that, though. If we do it again we won’t win but I don’t need to tell the boys that. They’re intelligent men. Our aim at the start of the year was to get to the knockout stages and that’s where we are.

JF: The scoring has been huge — 8-40 in the two games including 2-27 for you, Maurice.

Maurice: It’s not about me; the boys have been very good to me in winning frees right in front of goals and it would be hard enough to miss them. Scoring-wise, I was happy against Fourmilewater but last week I was also happy that I set up scores. Mount Sion tore us apart in last year’s quarter-final so we want to make up for that on Sunday.

JF: Dan, you were wearing 21 when you came on at the weekend. Isn’t that Maurice’s Waterford number?

Dan: I think I wore it when Davy (Fitzgerald) started dropping me with Waterford. Ten, 14 and 21 — they seem to be my numbers.

Maurice: I took 14 off him (laughs). Derek (McGrath) had more of a thing about me wearing 21 than me myself. 

Derek would be kind of superstitious and I suppose when it was working for me at the time I kept wearing it.

JF: It looks like you’re enjoying your hurling, Maurice.

Maurice: You always enjoy it when you’re winning and playing reasonably well. I’m not trying to prove a point or anything like that. I just want to help Lismore and if I can do that then that’s enough. I love going to the field. I don’t think I have been in the field in Lismore more than I have been this year whether it’s been watching an U10 game or training. Thankfully we have hurling back.

Maurice Shanahan, left, and Dan Shanahan of Lismore leaving Fraher Field last week. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Maurice Shanahan, left, and Dan Shanahan of Lismore leaving Fraher Field last week. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

JF: You’ve spoken about your mental health challenges in the past. How good is hurling for your head?

Maurice: There were nights in the past when I didn’t want to go up to the field. Thankfully, my team-mates in Waterford and Lismore were calling down to the house to persuade me back there. It’s great for the head, meeting your friends there. We have a close bond and it definitely helped me. I like to think I helped them too because we’re a team. That’s all that matters.

JF: Can you imagine life without hurling, Dan?

Dan: Not at the moment. It has been such a part of my life since I was U12 and U14 playing Tony Forristal. I was involved coaching with St Mary’s last year and we won a county junior and a Munster. I just loved being involved. I’m no expert. Any coach who thinks he is should pack it up. I’m looking to learn something new every day. I would be studying games and trying to find something to show the boys. I just love watching hurling. Even last night, I was on the couch looking at the great hurling saves and goals. John Fenton and Jimmy Barry’s goals, oh my God that double. It still hurts me to lose too. The day it doesn’t is the day I walk away from it.

JF: The last time you both did an interview in 2015 Maurice came out with the great line, “Dan didn’t come good until he was 27.” You are now 30, the same age as Dan was when he won the hurler of the year award. Do you feel your best hurling is ahead of you?

Maurice: I definitely do. I slagged Dan that he was a late bloomer but if I can keep developing it’s going to be better for Lismore and you never know after that.

JF: You were on a friend’s stag in Wexford when Liam Cahill made the phone call to you to leave you off the Waterford panel. Your thoughts on it now?

Maurice: It definitely hurt me but I had good people around me to advise me what to do. Dan and a few of the lads from Lismore were there that night. 

It’s not about going out to prove a point because that’s not the way to go but it was tough to take. I talked to Noelie (Connors) about it because he was in the same boat and we agreed we wouldn’t let it get us down too much, try and hurl well with our clubs and see where the road takes us. 

We got to do other stuff as well. I got to go to weddings when Waterford were training that I wouldn’t have been able to before. I’d have given them up if I could get back training but that’s just life. There are ups and downs and that was a down but there have been plenty of ups since. I’ve got married (to Katie) and we’re happy.

JF: Might a 22-year-old Maurice Shanahan have reacted differently to that news last October?

Maurice: Definitely. Last weekend, Dungarvan put Kieran Power on me to stop me scoring and they did that but I did well enough to set up scores and three or four goals I was involved in. If I was 21 or 22, I’d be doing my best to get on the scoresheet and not picking out lads in better positions.

Dan and Maurice Shanahan in Dungarvan. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Dan and Maurice Shanahan in Dungarvan. Picture: Howard Crowdy

JF: You were in and out of the team under Gerald and Justin McCarthy, Dan. What did you say to Maurice?

Dan: Could it have been done better? Why wasn’t it done during the week instead of the weekend? That’s not my decision, that’s up to the manager. Every manager tries and makes a statement when they come in. Liam and his selectors thought that maybe getting rid of two or three players was the way forward. Everyone needs to freshen things up but the only advice I would give a fella who has been omitted, as Liam said himself, not dropped, because he said the panel is open-ended... is park it, look in the mirror and say to yourself that you’re going to work harder. That’s all you can do. It’s up to the manager and selectors then to assess how you’re playing. Tommy Ryan was omitted at the time too as well as Maurice and Noelie and all they can do is try and play well for their clubs. I worked harder when I was out of the team with Justin. I was getting older under Davy and I was frustrated that I was in and out of the team but I could see where he was coming from too. I got him out of one or two holes too, when I came on in the Munster final replay in 2010 and the All-Ireland quarter-final in 2009 against Galway when we were five or six points down.

JF: The reaction to how the Waterford championships have been organised has been hugely positive. Is it the way forward?

Dan: It’s hard to criticise the board given the hand they’ve been dealt and the financial difficulties boards face. I think they’ve dealt with it brilliant. It’s wicked hard to get things right. Most clubs lose four or five players during the summer to America and the clubs have benefitted from them staying around. The quality goes up too. Before, you’d have two weekends with the club in April, one if Waterford were in a league final. That wasn’t fair. As bad as Covid has been, people staying put has been good to the clubs.

JF: Would you agree the split season, the championship played over a short period, might see more players prolong their club careers like yourself?

Dan: It’s much easier than peaking for two games in April then peak again for the latter stages of the championship. We’re lucky enough that we have two teams in Lismore, senior and junior. Some of the junior lads do their own thing and turn up for games but don’t train. They’d have a different mentality and that’s fine. The reason I’m still plugging away with the seniors is it’s better hurling, it’s cleaner, it’s faster. It's painful after training some nights but you put in the recovery and stretch for half an hour before going back into the gym. I just like being around the lads and going to the field. You love the craic and then there’d be rows too trying to pick the team but that’s all part of it.

JF: What age did your father Brian play to? It seems there’s longevity in the genes.

Dan: He was off the field (sent off) more than he was on it but he did play into his 40s. He’d make a few cameo roles for Ballysaggart at junior level and come on at full-forward for a penalty. Our uncle Tom played well into his 30s with Roanmore. It’s in the genes to play on but it comes from the hurling background more than anything else. If it’s in the blood, it’s in the blood. It’s like farming: you can’t just become a farmer; it has to be in your blood. The enjoyment hurling brings at this time of year, you wouldn’t swap it for anything else. One thing I do miss out of this Covid is sitting down on the grass and just watching a game, be it junior, intermediate or senior. But the GAA are doing their best and we’re playing.

Maurice: My hips aren’t great but I hope to play for another six or seven years. I love this system. Some people say we should have a break in the middle but when you play week-in, week-out you build up momentum and it’s easier to go back to the field on the Tuesday. It’s where I’m happy.

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