Championship Preview: I am the freetaker, Shane Dowling, Limerick

I came on against UCC in the Waterford Crystal in January, and the last time I hit a free was against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final in August.

I’d say I missed four. I was horrendous.

The thing is practice. To get into the groove. I wouldn’t practice a whole lot, I’d do a few at training nowadays but once the clocks turn and the weather gets better, you just arrive on a half-hour early into training and hit 30 or 40 frees. I don’t have a real system or routine apart from that.

Davy Clarke pucks them back out to me.

Trigger words. Routine? No. I just go with my own technique, I’m happy with that. Each guy does his own thing. Niall Gilligan had his style, for instance, and I think a left-sided free-taker soemtimes finds it harder to settle on a style, but everyone has their own way of doing it. Definitely if you start changing it between games you’d be in a bit of bother.

Because Gilligan was a leftie he was someone I’d have admired as a kid. And Seanie McMahon was another. Because I was hanging around with the St Joseph’s Doora Barefield lads as a child, I thought I knew Seanie even if I didn’t. He was another one to inspire me.

I wouldn’t go to bed dreaming of taking a free thirty yards out from goal to win a game. It was the situation John O’Dwyer was in last September that you’d dream of, because it was the ideal situation, as I’m sure John himself would tell you. Why? You’re not expected to score when you’re that far out. If you manage to get it, fine, you’re a hero for the rest of your life. If you miss one 30 yards out straight in front of goal you’re known for the rest of your life as well, but for a different reason

I couldn’t imagine the pressure he was under, but when he missed it there was no blame because he wouldn’t have been expected to score it anyway. I’ve practised one-on-one penalties. The stats aren’t showing that too many lads are scoring them at the moment. They’re definitely easier; I’ve had an okay success rate against Nicky (Quaid) but it’s different in UL on a Thursday evening, banging them into the top corner, compared to having 40,000 people roaring at you in Thurles. The goals are a lot smaller then.

I don’t know how goalkeepers are going to approach it. As a penalty taker you’re probably thinking about it a bit more because of all the talk there’s been about it.

There’ll probably be some mind games in it, because I suppose goalkeepers won’t be expected to save these penalties, so they have some freedom.

They won’t look like a clown if a goal goes in but the taker will if he starts blasting the cap off the umpires when he puts it wide.

Loads of people tried to make me change my style when I was younger. Eamonn Cregan, I remember, tried to make me change, but I wasn’t for changing.

If I had to pick one free?

In 2007, the All-Ireland semi-final between Waterford and Kilkenny, I went up with my father on the train. We couldn’t see Limerick win after they’d lost the Munster final - what did I know - but Andrew O’Shaughnessy took a penalty that day and if you could find me a better penalty . . .

If you could hit a one on one penalty like that then five men on the line wouldn’t stop it. Class.



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