Dan Shanahan interview July 11 2009

July 16, 2009

HE was watching television last weekend when he saw the two of them. Anthony Daly, the measured bainisteoir of Dublin.
Diarmuid O’Sullivan, suited and
booted on The Sunday Game.

Dan Shanahan reached into a
memory bank swollen by 12 intercounty seasons and remembered other days. Other attitudes. Like the
Munster hurling final in 1998, when Shanahan came into Daly’s orbit.

“I said that to him, ‘you’re not marking Seanie McGrath now’,” says Shanahan. “He said ‘no, you’re uglier’. That was fair enough. I had no gumshield that time. He was the elder statesman, I was the young fella. I’d say there was worse said to Daly out on the field.”

More recently there was the snap of O’Sullivan and Shanahan on their haunches. Breathing hard, not so hard they couldn’t talk.

“The two of us were down and I said ‘Sully, I’m fecked’, and he said ‘if you are, so am I’. That’s another side of it — we were serious playing it, but if the ball was up the other end of the field you’d end up talking, even though I wasn’t much for talking.”

Shanahan is up front about the timeframe for his own playing career.

“You
realise the time is
getting short. Up to a couple of years ago it was a 15-man game, but now it’s a 20-man game. You have to do extra training to stay at the level, and at times you’d wonder if it’s worth it.

“I love training, and I have great respect for the lads I’m training with. You might be in bad form going into training but a good session will put in good form again.”

He gave young Noel Connors some advice before his first championship match. Nothing dramatic, but Shanahan could remember his entry to a dressing-room with men like Stephen Frampton and Damien Byrne.

“I was stuck in the corner, togging out next to someone from my own club because that’s the only guy you’d know. But then they started taking the piss out of me and vice versa, and it was fine. I know what it’s like for young fellas coming in, they’re looking at the likes of Tony Browne, Eoin
Kelly, and it takes three or four weeks’ training for the young fellas to realise they’re great lads. After carrying lads around a mucky field they get to know each other fine.”

And when they do the slagging starts: “Ah, you’ll rise fellas if Man United lost, or if Mullane did
something cracked the last day. You’ll have great banter. Inter-county hurling has become very serious in the last couple of years, the fun is nearly gone out of it. We take it seriously when we train but we have plenty of craic with each other afterwards.”

And the top marksman when the darts fly? “Eoin Murphy’s very fast off the mark with an answer. But you’d know the witty lads, they all have a third-level education.”

Shanahan doesn’t mind talking about 2008, and the All-Ireland final, but he goes back a bit further.

“In 2007 we conceded five goals to Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final, and any time you concede five goals you’re in trouble, but we still nearly won that game. If we’d won that day we’d have been in better shape for 2008, but last year we did everything right, as far as I’m concerned, going into the game. We just came up against a fantastic team on their best day.

“To beat Kilkenny, we’d need 17-18 fellas playing very well, and they’d need a few not to play well. A good team beat us in the final — a very good team – but it could have been any other team against them in that game and the result would have been the same.

“We didn’t know what effect that had until the championship.
Challenges and league games are fine but nothing compares to championship. The first day against Limerick the weather was a huge factor — people couldn’t see how heavy the rain was, the referee could have called that off at half-time.

“The second day the weather was much better and you could see the
difference — everyone did very well. That’s something Davy has installed, that everyone is part of the team and contributes when they come on.”

The Lismore man sees plenty of
differences between hurling now and 1996, when he started.

“High fielding was easier in the 90s because you’d have space. Now if the opposition knows you’ll win high ball they’ll drop a player back in front of you, and it’s up to you to counteract it. And you can counteract it, by moving, but the game has become harder and that’s one sign of it.

“The speed of the game is now unbelievable, so now if you win a ball you’re nearly looking to lay it off with a handpass rather than going for it like in the old days.”

Elsewhere, it’s been a week of
headlines for the GPA. Shanahan is a strong believer. “You have to respect the GPA. You’re training like a professional and what players ask for isn’t much. I know everyone is suffering with the recession, and the GPA is willing to do what’s necessary.

“The clubs are doing great work and so are county boards, but the work that players are putting in is colossal.

“It’s definitely not a money thing. Being paid to play hurling isn’t going to happen; there might be two counties could do it but that’s all. Recognition is what it’s all about. After all, the Monday after the Munster final I’ll be up at work — and rightly so — but the players should get recognised.

“It mightn’t happen in my era but it could happen that a game will come, with 40,000 or 50,000 spectators in a ground, that the players won’t line out. The mood is that strong.”

He sees bright signs for Waterford’s future: “We’ve won some Tony Forrestal tournaments, De La Salle won a couple of Hartys, Lismore won the Munster B and Dungarvan the C, so you’d be hoping a few come through.”

One of those youngsters is his own brother, Maurice. “I think having him there puts more pressure on me!

“It makes me feel old having him there. He’s 19, and he’s dedicated, he’s committed, but it’s a fair education to come into the intercounty scene — in the first week on the panel the young fellas meet a dietician who plans their food, a doctor checks them and runs blood tests and so on ahead of training after what happened Cormac McAnallen, God rest him.

“They can’t socialise at all, no drink or anything. Richie Foley was saying all his mates are going to Oxegen, but he can’t.

“But against that, if you won tomorrow … I’ve been lucky enough to be there three times, and the 10 minutes after the final whistle is like nothing else. Losing is desperate, but if you win, there in the dressing-room, the lot of ye together … nothing else is like it. Nothing compares to it.”

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