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The prize of Croke Park and chasing an All-Ireland club hurling dream at 40

Dan Shanahan and his Lismore teammates seek a decider place in today’s semi-final.

Dan Shanahan is hunting an All-Ireland final place with Lismore.
Dan Shanahan is hunting an All-Ireland final place with Lismore.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

HIS FINAL RUN out in Croke Park as a Waterford hurler came in 2010.

There was no glorious fitting finale to Dan Shanahan’s inter-county days, flung on as a second-half substitute in an All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary that was beyond rescuing.

He called a halt days later to life as an inter-county player.

Shanahan has been back in the Croke Park spotlight for the past two seasons, displaying no shortage of energy and passion on the sideline as a Waterford selector.

He turned 40 earlier this month and yet his playing career has not quite finished. There is the prospect of one more Croke Park chapter being written.

Today Shanahan will run out in O’Connor Park with the Lismore intermediate hurlers as they face Galway’s Ahascragh-Fohenagh, with county seniors on board in the Mannion brothers – Padraig and Cathal.

There’s a spot on offer in an All-Ireland club decider next month at Croke Park. The prize is magnified when Shanahan considers Lismore suffered relegation in September 2015, their 46-year run as a senior hurling club in Waterford coming to a bracing end.

“No, I didn’t think I’d get the chance again,” admits Shanahan.

“I’m playing since I was 16, so this is 24 years now. It’s a long innings. Coming off a bad year, we didn’t know what to expect.

“It was a bad year to go down. We were wicked unlucky, we played De La Salle in a relegation final battle. I think if it was anyone else, we would have won that game and stayed up but we probably would have been only papering over the cracks.”

They regrouped and rehabilitated for 2016. Getting on board a marquee name of Waterford hurling to guide them helped. Shanahan soldiered in the trenches with Tony Browne for several years, now he listens to him for hurling guidance.

“I’ve always respected the man. It’s up to every player when a manager comes in to give it 110% and I think I’ve done that for Tony, and vice-versa.

“He’s a fantastic man and his coaching is so professional, he brings his expertise. His brother does video clips for.

“He’s brought us to another level. He’s an exceptional coach and I can tell you one thing, he’s going places.”

Tony Browne celebrates after the final whistle Tony Browne celebrating Waterford's 2010 Munster senior final win. Source: Cathal Noonan

Last year Shanahan was a player who needed more leeway when it came to attending training sessions, given his selector commitments with the Waterford seniors. He resolved not to let his fitness levels dip despite that inter-county role.

“It was difficult. But the one thing is if I’m not with Waterford, I’ll always be with Lismore for training. It’s worked out lovely.

“The championship went on long this year so I got a lot of time with Lismore. The one thing I personally do myself is I keep myself in great shape.

“If I’m not in the field with the boys, I’ll go training before I go training with Waterford. I don’t have any injuries touch wood. I’ve loved it.”

Maurice Shanahan Dan Shanahan and his brother Maurice are key figures on the Lismore side. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

It’s an uplifting time at the end of a club career that had largely generated frustration. As a youngster Dan experienced a county final win with Lismore in 1993.

What happened after that? Ballygunner and Mount Sion gained a firm grip on Waterford hurling, not allowing anyone else enter the winners’ enclosure.

The pair of city heavyweights have won 18 senior hurling crowns between them since 1993. Lismore suffered pain in particular at the hands of Ballygunner on final day – seven points in arrears in 1996, two points adrift in 2001 and a single point loss after a replay in 2009.

“That’s just the way it came,” reasons Shanahan.

“Ballygunner had an exceptional team, we seemed to get them and they always seemed to beat us. You can’t argue with that if a team is better than you on the day.”

He savoured last October’s county final win.

“To win this year, the intermediate was unbelievable. I stood down – the lads went up to collect the cup – I stood down to watch them and to see the enjoyment on their faces is what it’s about.”

They haven’t stopped since. Dan has watched his younger brother Maurice terrorise defences, hurlers like Paudie Prendergast and Ray Barry blossom, while their rearguard has been watertight.

Paudie Prendergast Paudie Prendergast has been a key figure with Lismore Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

They won out in Munster. Now the All-Ireland stage is where they seek to make a mark.

“Age is nothing,” says Shanahan.

“If you have the time and dedication to put into it, you’ll get the rewards. We’re senior hurlers, that’s where we wanted to be.

“But now we’ve a chance to represent our club in an All-Ireland semi-final and if we win that, we get to go to Croke Park. That’s the stuff you dream about when you start playing with your club.

“Semi-finals are about winning, no matter how you win. You ask any inter-county player if you win the game, 0-9 to 0-8, who cares? You get the opportunity and you just hope you can take it.”

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