Shane Dowling was at the launch of the AIB club hurling championship today and the Na Piarsaigh club hurler gave a great insight into what makes him tick.
Dowling is preparing for his club’s clash against Blackrock of Cork in the Munster semi-final in just two weeks and he is really enjoying being in and amongst his club peers as they march out of Limerick into the provincial championship as county champions yet again. Although Blackrock came up short in the Cork SHC final to Imokilly on Sunday, the city club are nominated to represent the Leesiders in Munster ahead of the East Cork division as divisional sides are not permitted to go any further than county championships.
On that particularly unusual scenario, the Limerick star had a pretty clear stance.
“It’s definitely unique.
“We obviously wouldn’t have come across it, but as far as we’re concerned we have to play a Munster semi-final in the Gaelic Grounds and we just want to do ourselves justice because we have a good side and we won’t be thinking about Blackrock, whether they go out for a week after the county final or they don’t go out at all that’s their own business.
“We can only play what’s put in front of us. I wasn’t at the game yesterday, I have no idea how good or bad they are, but they’re a very proud Cork club, so I’d imagine they want to do the club proud in two weeks’ time anyway,” he said.
The crafty forward has been a part of a glorious period in Na Piarsaigh’s history so far, helping them to their very first ever Limerick SHC title in 2011 and four in total. Of those four county championship wins, Na Piarsaigh have failed only once to go on and collect at least a Munster title. In 2016 the club reached the promised land and clinched their first All-Ireland club championship victory in Croke Park.
Dowling is enjoying the good days while they’re here and he knows all too well what he and his team must do to ensure they stay around.
“Listen, I always say make hay while the sun shines and the sun is shining in Limerick, the sun is shining in Na Piarsaigh and we don’t want any clouds to come over it.
“We want to stay going as long as we can.
“We’ve got a good bunch of players there with a very professional and home-grown management team and we want to keep our record in Munster the way it is and whether Blackrock won, lost or drew the county final, to us it’s just another team and we just have to go out and play to our potential,” he stated.
Renowned as one of the finest strikers of the ball in the country, the 24-year-old interestingly gave us a snippet of what makes his excellence from placed balls so consistent. When asked how often he practices his frees, his response should come as a surprise to most.
“Not often. We’re playing Blackrock in two weeks’ time. Say for me, going down to Na Piarsaigh hitting frees on a Thursday night, with no-one there, no cameras, and to compare that to going down to a completely different venue, with a big crowd, and on TG4, there’s no comparison.
“I’d more practice my technique and my visualisation than I do the frees. As I said, if you’re playing a match in front of 5,000, live on television, it just doesn’t compare to hitting frees on your own in a different venue.
“The week of the match, I’d just hit a couple to make sure my striking is intact, but as I said, there’s no point in hitting 100 frees because it’s different circumstances for different days,” Shane stated.
Like every good magician, Dowling was reluctant to share his secret.
“There’s different venues, I mean, some days there might be a treehouse behind the goals and you want to hit it into the treehouse, but other days there’s nothing behind the goals.
“I have my own little secret, with my own teammates for what I do in that regard, so I’ll keep that between us.”
Whatever his secret may be, it certainly is unique to hear such a top-class free taker announce that he doesn’t even practice that often.