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Dublin: 11 °C Sunday 25 August, 2019
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'He is one great lad, but I don’t think people recognise the hard work he puts in behind the scenes either'

Shane Lowry’s S&C coach, Robbie Cannon, sheds light on the Offaly man’s remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

Shane Lowry celebrates with his daughter Iris and wife Wendy.
Shane Lowry celebrates with his daughter Iris and wife Wendy.
Image: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

ROBBIE CANNON could be forgiven for his mind wandering warmly back over the past few blissful days.

The Claret Jug now rests with one of his close friends and clients. Shane Lowry has realised his potential by playing some of the best golf Cannon has ever seen, and the Dublin native was on hand to soak up the outpouring of joy and warmth that greeted it all.

Cannon started working with Lowry as his strength and conditioning coach in 2015. The pair had played amateur golf together back at the start of the noughties and, soon after they joined forces professionally, one of the first things Cannon told Lowry was that the Offaly man would win a Major championship.

“Shane’s coach, Neil Manchip, said the very same,” Cannon recalls.

“But to see it happening in Portrush, after what I would consider the greatest round of golf I have ever seen, is nearly beyond belief. The last few days have been just superb.

“Shane’s Saturday round, to me, that was where the Open was won. I don’t know if I have ever seen a better round of golf anywhere on such a course.”

Robbie Cannon Robbie Cannon celebrates with the Irish Amateur Open trophy in 2013.Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

All week long, Lowry has been celebrating and posing for pictures, blending in with the public like he was one of them.

Cannon says he is just about the nicest fella you could meet.

But he points out that a journey had to be taken to reach this happy juncture.

“The persona that the public sees – happy, friendly, sincere, that is all real and it is him. He is one great lad, but I don’t think people recognise the hard work he puts in behind the scenes either. That doesn’t seem to come out at all. There is a perception that he is all natural,” he said.

Behind the scenes, Cannon knows just how much effort and graft Lowry has invested, because he has been with him every step of the way for the past four years.

Now, his trainer feels the Clara man can continue to reap dividends for years to come.

Cannon, also the Laois footballers’ strength and conditioning expert, is a three-time Irish amateur golf Major champion himself over the last 10 years, and is the reigning Irish Close champion having achieved victory at the European Club in Wicklow in 2018.

He has great affinity with the South of Ireland series at Lahinch, winning there in 2009 and then going on to win the Irish Amateur Open title for 2013 in Royal Dublin.

Having played amateur golf tournaments with Rory McIlroy and Lowry, and wanting to drive himself to his own maximum, Cannon decided to change career tack when he had a chat with Dr Liam Hennessy of Setanta College, Thurles.

In his early 20s, most of Cannon’s gym work centred on forming the perfect ‘beach body’. There was little scientific or practical approach to what he did. He duly saw no improvement to his golf game through this period.

That changed in 2008 when Cannon met Dr Liam Hennessy, Padraig Harrington’s trainer for the past two decades.

Robbie Cannon

Hennessy completely transformed Cannon’s approach and subsequent life and career. The Balbriggan man had been working as an industrial chemicals sales executive but packed in that role to further his education.

“Dr Liam educated and redeveloped me to such an extent I went back to college myself,” Cannon says.

“I started off with a diploma at Setanta College, then I did a Bachelor’s degree and I graduated with my Masters in Strength and Conditioning there as well,” he adds.

“In training for golf, in my gym work, I learned that I was focusing on all the wrong areas.”

After graduating, through learning the theory, technical and scientific skills from Setanta College, he set up his own fitness company called Cannon Performance, and now coaches several elite Irish golfers including Lowry. He also works with the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union.

 “No doubt Shane has natural talent,” Cannon says. 

“But he works so hard on top of that. How many guys have natural talent, don’t work at it, and you never hear of them again? Quite a few is the answer.

“Shane has a gift, but he very works very hard at every aspect of his game. When we started working together we focused on two areas – mobility and strength.

“We are planning for him to have a long career and we have kept him injury free. His mobility has improved. He has also added 30 yards to his game over the past few years, too,” Cannon adds. 

Shane Lowry Lowry battles the rain in Portrush. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

After surrendering a four-shot lead at Oakmount in the US Open those criticisms resurfaced again.

“Those were articles written by people who simply haven’t a clue what they are talking about,” he protests.

“Phil Mickleson dropped 16 pounds in a rush ahead of The Open last week and finished on +8. Did losing weight do him any good?

“As my mentor, Dr Liam always says: ‘In extremes lies danger.’

“Every golfer works to their own strengths. Like I say, the two areas I worked on with Shane from the start were mobility and yardage.

“Shane works hard in the gym on both of these areas. It’s hard to play a practice round, then head to the gym to work on this, but he knows what needs to be done.

“When I started off with him first, I went out with him on tour for 11 different weeks. But now he is self-reliant. He works hard off-season and keeps that ticking over in competition.

Robbie Cannon Cannon in action during the 2013 Irish Amateur Open. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

He’s his own man, too. Shane has a trusted team around him, and he will take advice off them, but at the end of the day he will make up his own mind too. He knows himself better than anyone.

It’s also been an exceptionally fruitful year for Setanta graduate Cannon.

Some years back he dabbled his toes into GAA waters and began working with the Fingal hurling team.

At the end of 2017 he met new Laois football manager John Sugrue. The two of them quickly found common ground over a coffee and have been working together since.

With back to back League promotions secured, Cannon has thrust himself into that role as well.

 “I love what I do,” he says.

“Working with individuals and working with teams is a great learning curve and you pick up stuff all the time.”

But these last few days with Shane will be hard to beat. What he was achieved is incredible. It all comes down to hard work, though. And there is some amount of steel behind what you see in public.

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About the author:

Damian Lawlor

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