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Dublin: -2°C Thursday 15 April 2021

'One of the lads got me a mug that goes from my face and turns into his!' The Dub sub mistaken identity

The Dublin defender on being confused for Connolly, his Meath family background and staking a claim to start.

THIS MAY BE his sixth season fighting it out for a place on the Dublin football side but Eric Lowndes has flown under the radar in contrast to his more heralded colleagues.

pjimage (1) Eric Lowndes and Diarmuid Connolly were both brought off the bench for Dublin against Tyrone. Source: INPHO

He’s nailed down a starting spot in Dublin’s two opening assignments in Leinster this summer but prior to that Lowndes had seen plenty appearances off the bench with game time fiercely coveted by the members of Jim Gavin’s squad.

In the finale of last August’s All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, Lowndes entered the action but was unaware at the time as to why he was greeted with a cacophony of cheers by Dublin supporters.

Post-match he realised that he had been mistaken for Diarmuid Connolly by fans on Hill 16, eager to acclaim the return of the star attacker who had missed much of the summer through suspension.

“I actually wasn’t really aware, I ran onto the pitch and I thought there was a fight broken out behind me or something, I didn’t know what was going on, to be honest,” recalls Lowndes.

“I suppose I was just in the moment and there was only a couple of minutes left in an All-Ireland semi-final, so I was just thinking about getting on and doing my job at that stage.

“I know it’s kind of cliched to say I blocked it out, but I genuinely didn’t pay much attention to it.”

There was plenty to remind him afterwards, including those amongst the staff at Scoil Bríde in Blanchardstown where Lowndes teaches.

“I’ve a nice mug at home,” laughs the St Peregrine’s club man.

“Ah, we had a thing in work and one of the lads got me a mug that goes from my face and turns into his.

“There’s a bit of a resemblance there!”

He’s an established Dublin squad member now but growing up Lowndes was more exposed to the fortunes of the Meath footballers.

“My immediate family are from Meath and there’s some from Westmeath. Both my parents are from Meath. I’m not sure the name comes from there. It’s quite a small family, to be honest. My Dad’s both parents were only children so there’s not many Lowndes’ that I’m aware of. I’ve only got about three cousins.

“Meath were really successful when I was young. I was born in ’94, Meath won an All-Ireland in ’96, ’99 and beaten by Galway in 2001. I was kind of raised on stories of Meath heroes from the past, even the generation before that, the ’87 and ’88 team and all that kind of stuff, uncles and cousins and the whole lot would have been mad into it. They don’t support the Dubs anyway!”

His brother Stuart plays his club football with St Peter’s in Dunboyne.

“My brother is playing club football in Meath and played O’Byrne Cup with them in 2017, 2016, something like that. He is still playing football with Dunboyne at the minute.

“We’ve lined out against each other plenty of times in club training over the years but didn’t (with county).”

Eric Lowndes Dublin defender Eric Lowndes at this week's media event at the Gibson Hotel. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

In 2012 Lowndes experienced All-Ireland glory for the first time as Dublin swept past Meath in the minor final.

He was well acquainted at the time with the fortunes of Meath football.

“I went to school in Meath, played Meath schools football and Meath colleges football but no, never was a prospect or never was thinking about playing for a club team in Meath or playing county football in Meath or anything.

“We played them twice, there was two guys played in the All-Ireland minor final and the year before there were three guys that were good friends of mine in school. Yeah, it was an interesting couple of weeks in school, the build up, sitting beside a couple of guys in an English class. I wasn’t marking any of them, we were all defenders.”

Lowndes graduated on to the senior panel instantly from the minor ranks for the 2013 season but had to wait until 2015 for his championship bow when he replaced Jonny Cooper in a dismantling of Longford.

He pinpoints 2014 as a key year where he focused on putting in the hard work off the pitch.

“I was a skinny 18-year-old in 2013! It was never said to me directly, to be honest, but it was just something that I was aware of myself.

“You know physically yourself on the pitch when you’re competing with guys, you know when you’re first to the ball or if there’s a guy nudging you off the ball or whatever.

“So I definitely went after it in 2014. I actually picked up an injury at the end of 2013 and the injury lay off was a bit of a blessing, I got a chance to get in and get a lot of gym work done and kind of get up a few levels on that.”

Eric Lowndes Eric Lowndes in action in this year's football league final. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Now that he’s had a taste of starting, he’s intent on holding on to that position. Dublin may be utterly dominant in Leinster but for Lowndes the prospect of provincial final day remains one to eagerly await.

“It’s still a massive honour to get a Dublin jersey any day regardless of the competition or the day. Whether you are an U13 playing on a local field in Blanchardstown or whatever it is, it is a massive honour to get that opportunity.

“We are all from that province, we know what it represents and we know how hard it was for Dublin to get their hands on it for so many years. When I was growing up Dublin weren’t winning Leinster Championships with any regularity.

“It was a massive celebration back then and still is for us. We are all aware of the transitions in counties and how success doesn’t last forever so we are all driving it on.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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