Shane Dowling still dreaming about Limerick hurling success
Player admits county and club commitments can be hectic, but he wouldn’t change it
Na Piarsaigh’s Shane Dowling celebrates his side scoring a goal against Doon last month at Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Be careful what you dream about. Exactly one year after admitting he goes to bed most nights dreaming about winning an All-Ireland, Shane Dowling is still pinching himself, or maybe just afraid of waking up.
Either way Dowling is still living off Limerick’s All-Ireland victory last August, the county’s first in 45 years, scoring one of the decisive goals off the bench: he was straight back into a club campaign with Na Piarsaigh and on Sunday will look to extend their unique unbeaten run in the Munster championship: played 12, drew one, lost zero. And ultimately make amends for last year’s All-Ireland club final replay defeat to Cuala.
Waterford’s Ballygunner stand in their way in Sunday’s final at Semple Stadium, and having won first back-to-back Limerick titles in the club’s 50-year history, the proper reflection on that All-Ireland Sunday can wait. In the meantime has the dream so far lived up to the reality?
“It’s very hard to word it, but it absolutely has,” says Dowling. “I haven’t actually sat down and watched the whole lot of the final. Because of how hectic it’s been since the match with the club I don’t really want to. Someone said to me, when you sit down and watch the game it’s nearly as if it’s in the past. Until you watch it, you’re still living in the moment. But there will be plenty of time between Monday and Christmas to enjoy it.
“I’m nearly afraid to watch it because I know when I do that it’ll be in the past and that’s it but it does live up to the dream, of course it does. Limerick people are just basically coming up saying ‘thank you’. And I met Kieran Kingston [former Cork manager] down in Listowel Races a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never met the man before, we had a good chat and he just said, ‘All I’m hearing back from everyone is how well the Limerick players are carrying themselves’ and to me that was the greatest compliment.
“I spoke to John [Kiely, the Limerick manager] after the final and he said two things that struck me, he said, ‘One thing you can be damn sure of is this win isn’t going to change me’. I said, ‘John, I second that, it’s not going to change me’. And his speech on the bus from Croke Park, when we got near to the City West, he more or less echoed the same thing, he said, ‘This success better not change anyone, you’re still who you are, you’ve won something that’s huge and we’ve huge respect here and we have to carry that respect everywhere we go’, and I think people tuned into that straight away.”
Dowling is now tuned back into Na Piarsaigh. After winning their fifth Limerick county title in seven years, they’re chasing Munster title number five, after 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017; any though the club success might impact on his county career is for another day.
“Victims of success is probably the wrong choice of words, but we were straight back in with Limerick after the [club] All-Ireland. Straight back in with club now. So that’s two years on the trot with a week here, two weeks there. It’s not easy. Definitely you’d love a couple of months off. But you love success more. All it’s going to do ultimately is probably shorten careers. If you’re consistently on the road for a long number of years, it’s not going to be possible to stay going. But we’re a driven club, a driven county .
“Listen, physically you will always be fine. The big thing here is mental. Mental freshness is bigger than anything and you have to keep that. I’d hate to be sitting here in front of you and saying, ‘listen, I’ve had three months off and my club aren’t competing for this, so I’d much rather be in the debate we are in, but I don’t have the answers.”
Dowling can, however, easily explain Na Piarsaigh success: “Just the 15 players that start, people have this perception Na Piarsaigh huge club, huge numbers, massive city club. If you look at all the starting players, a two to three mile radius covers all those players, 14 of the players that started grew up in Na Piarsaigh, lads that are still running it are born and home bred. All of us are involved with underage teams in Na Piarsaigh, we’re just a very, very united club.
“As I keep saying there’s a window of opportunity here, we know we’ve a team good enough to win these things, you’ll be on a bar stool long enough.”