Losing an All-Ireland club hurling semi-final a few weeks ago with Na Piarsaigh was a massive disappointment for young Shane Dowling — but there were two compensations.
The first was that Loughgiel Shamrocks were simply the better team. The second? He was given immediate action with the Limerick senior team against Clare in the Allianz Hurling League.
“They’re a serious outfit,” said Shane of Loughgiel, speaking this week in Dublin where he was picking up his award as AIB Provincial Player of the Year in Munster for 2011.
“I’d have no qualms with the way they beat us. The better team won. They’re very intense, super hurlers. They’re just everything you want in a team. They’re hard-working, good hurlers, very balanced. People might think that having lost the semi-final to them you then want to see them go on and lose but that definitely isn’t the case with us and Loughgiel.
“They have no football in the club, their focus on hurling is absolutely phenomenal. And their supporters; they wear their hearts on their sleeves, twice over. When Loughgiel score a point it’s not just an ordinary reaction, it’s up and hitting the roof and everything.”
And his Limerick call-up, days before his 19th birthday?
“It’s often nice to get a break and it would have been different if I’d finished up on that Saturday and then had to go straight back into training with Na Piarsaigh. Mentally that would have been hard. The fact it was with Limerick, which was always something I’d wanted to be part of, made it easier.”
He played well himself, notched seven points of Limerick’s 1-13 total, but overall it was a very poor display by Limerick, a 14-point hiding. Complacency setting in, perhaps, after Limerick got off to a flying start?
“Maybe, yes; even at half-time, only four points behind, I thought we had an opportunity to get it back but look, it’s gone now. It wasn’t even the final scoreline, it was the workrate, it all seemed to go flat. I won’t say it was worrying but it was disappointing, there’s no hiding that. If we can go up to Laois on Sunday and put in a performance, come away with two points, get back on track.”
That will be round two of the league and given that Laois were fairly comprehensively beaten themselves in their opener, a game against neighbours Offaly, they will be thinking exactly the same way. Get back on track. Challenging times ahead then for Shane but rookie and all as he is, he’ll be in some very familiar company up front with Limerick.
Apart from his club team-mate and Limerick captain David Breen, he also has former school companions Declan Hannon and Kevin Downes, along with former teacher and trainer of the successful Árdscoil Rís team, Niall Moran.
“Yeah, the two boys are my best friends and every day we’d be on the phone or texting, talking about hurling, seeing what the story is. Kevin is out for Sunday, a hamstring problem; he’s a loss, and I don’t know how Declan is now either [groin problem].
“If they’re out though it’s irrelevant, there are plenty of other guys on the panel to come in. Look at Limerick last year, they were so close against Waterford in Munster, then so close against Dublin in the All-Ireland, so close for so many years. I was beginning to think it was just bad luck but when I suggested that to Niall Moran he nearly killed me! He said it wasn’t luck, it was just that Limerick weren’t getting over the finish line. If we can put the wrongs right, tick all the boxes, Limerick will eventually get over the finish line, and when that time comes Limerick will be a serious force in hurling.”
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