Shane Dowling grew up “dreaming of a day like this”.
And as the big day came closer, the Limerick super sub allowed his imagination run riot.
Dowling lived the dream on Munster final Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday as the Na Piarasigh bulwark came off the bench to score three massive points.
And he gushed: “For the last couple of nights I’ve thought and seen what happened here today. I live and breathe hurling. Everything I do and everything in my life is involved in hurling. That’s the same for a lot of the lads.
“This is my second year in the team and I’m 20 years of age and I’m after winning a Munster title. You look at Niall Moran and Donal O’Grady who’ve waited so long or even go beyond them to the likes of Ollie Moran and Brian Geary, who just left the panel this year, and you have to feel for them.”
Dowling, a two-time Harty Cup winner with Ardscoil Rís, was naturally in ebullient form as Limerick got one hell of a big monkey off their backs. And while he’d like to start in every game, it’s a measure of John Allen’s managerial ability that Dowling is comfortable in his current role.
He made a big impact off the bench against Tipperary in the Munster semi-final and shone again yesterday.
Dowling, 20, grinned: “I had three bad frees as well though but sure we won’t worry about them! No, it’s been a great day.
“Of course you’re disappointed when you’re not starting, but the manager is there to do his job. Initially before the Tipp game I was very disappointed but you just have to buy into it. And when you come on you just have to try to perform and make your name for the next day. That’s all you want to do.”
Allen faces a huge selection dilemma ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final on August 18, with so many players contesting for positions not only on the starting 15, but also on the bench.
And Dowling nodded: “It’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to be very tough to try to get onto the team because no-one really had a bad game out there.
“In the first half it probably wasn’t as intense as the Tipp game but you expect that in a Munster final. It’s upwards and onwards now.
“We’ll celebrate this because it’s 1996 since we won one last so we’ll make sure to enjoy it. But there’s a Liam MacCarthy Cup there too at the end of the day.”
And with this win, the dark days can finally be consigned to the history books.
Dowling said: “It’s not so long ago that things weren’t right in Limerick but people bought into what was going on. The players that are there now are a fantastic bunch. 2010 is only a couple of years gone, but it doesn’t seem like it now.”
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