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James Crombie/INPHO Shane Dowling pictured on crutches before a Na Piarsaigh game in 2019.
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'Very lucky' - Limerick great Dowling on club return from injury hell after 2020 retirement
The 2018 All-Ireland winner came on for Na Piarsaigh at the weekend after a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury.

LIMERICK HURLING GREAT Shane Dowling says he is “very lucky” after making an incredible injury comeback to make an appearance for his club Na Piarsiagh at the weekend.

Dowling was forced to retire from inter-county hurling in 2020 at the age of 27 after suffering with a knee injury from 2017 which required three surgeries. The 2018 All-Ireland winner expressed his heartbreak at the time of his departure from the Limerick squad, but added that he was hopeful of returning to play at club level.

Following that lengthy lay-off, Dowling was introduced as a substitute for Na Piarsaigh in the Limerick Senior Hurling League against Monaleen on Saturday evening. He later marked his triumphant return on social media and speaking at the launch of RTÉ’s coverage for the GAA championship, he articulated his gratitude at having the chance to resume his hurling career.

“No, never did, not in recent years,” he responded when asked if he thought this day would come. 

“I just consider myself very lucky. A lot of work, a lot of dark days. Just chuffed to be able to do it. It’s a building block – I don’t know where I’ll get back to.

“The main reason going forward, I’d love to be able to help or talk to players in a similar position because it’s quite hard. I was lucky. I was able to reach out to a number of people who (went through) something similar. When you can talk to someone who has been through the same experience it makes it easier – I’d love to do that going forward.”

Dowling added that he’s not in a position to elaborate on all of the details regarding his injury at the moment, and also explained that he can’t say for certain how far he will be able to progress with his recovery.

“It’s too early to say. We’re back training a couple of weeks with the club. I’ve months of work done prior to that. The real hard stuff. Some days it takes me no time to recover, others a few days. More than likely I’ll never get back to where I was. I was going to say I lost my pace but I never had that to lose anyway.”

Limerick will begin their quest to complete an All-Ireland three-in-a-row this weekend, as they begin the Munster series with a trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to face Cork.

John Kiely’s side underperformed for large parts of the league and Dowling stresses that a big performance is needed from the Shannonsiders to remind people of their prowess.

“They’re going into a Munster championship wondering where are Limerick at, are they where they were last year more so than Limerick are animals, they’re 10 points better than anybody else.

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“From a point of view from viewership, I think it will make it more interesting because the perception is maybe Limerick aren’t maybe as good as they were and that makes it all the more eager for everyone else to see. But in Limerick we’re hoping they get back to their best.   

“If you were to go over the last couple of years and forgetting the All-Ireland final, Limerick struggled to get a result down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“If Cork run at teams and have a flow to their game and are allowed to do that, then they are going to pose a big threat.”

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