If you are a follower of this blog, then you will probably know that I am an avid Limerick hurling supporter. GAA was the sport that I excelled at when I was young. My lanky six foot frame (no longer lanky now) making it easy for me at full forward to catch a sliothar or football and score a goal or provide an assist (or awkward pass) to a colleague to score themselves. I could have been a star laugh out loud!
I played my underage club hurling with Ahane and let us say when I was growing up, relations between Ahane and Na Piarsaigh were far from pleasant. There was a growing rivalry between Ahane and the club based on the Ennis Road in Caherdavin. I went to school in Newport, Tipperary but other underage club members went to school in Ard Scoil Ris which was the default secondary school for anyone in Na Piarsaigh. Rivalries built up.
As I went to college, my hurling days faded akin to my nights out on the town in Limerick as a student but Na Piarsaigh and their unwavering ambition to succeed at club and county level was all apparent. I got more of that when I summer jobbed out in Shannon with Raychem as Na Piarsaigh clubmen would get into heated debates on Ahane vs. Na Piarsaigh underage final fixtures.
Shane Dowling came from Na Piarsaigh. The club ethos, the determination and passion for their hurling and football always to the fore. You could see where he got that passion and hunger for success.
Ger Hoey from Doora-Barefield and a next door neighbor of Shane Dowling in Caherdavin was another inspiration who provided the fire and belief for the player to succeed. Dowling was a club mascot when Doora-Barefield won the All Ireland club back in 1999. What a memory from Croke Park!
It inspired Dowling and his performances with Ard Scoil Ris were standout. A star was identified early by hurling management. Two Dr. Harty Cup final wins and Dowling was prominent in these successes as the school cast aside opposition in the province in both 2010 and 2011.
When the player was first introduced to underage intercounty, it was a tough reality check. Early exits in minor championship in this grade were disappointing but his potential was seen.
Dowling was called up to the U21 side. 2011 saw a Munster U21 Championship where he scored seven points. Dowling’s leadership seen by management and was appointed captain of the U21 side in 2014.
Na Piarsaigh soar to new heights
It was a stark contrast to his flourishing club career. I remember when Na Piarsaigh won their first senior hurling title. Dowling all over the win scoring 1-10 from corner forward and beating a well fancied Adare at the Gaeli Grounds.
The bridesmaid (Na Piarsaigh) had become the stunning bride and the Caherdavin club never looked back from this success and started to dominate thereafter in the decade.
Munster SHC club wins ensued in 2011 and also in 2013 after another county win over Adare. A third title followed in 2015 with a win over Patrickswell, a thrilling win with a point in the difference. A third Munster club medal ensued and then came the pinnacle for Na Piarsaigh where they secured their All Ireland senior club success beating Ruairi Og by 2-25 to 2-14 in the final.
2017 and more Na Piarsaigh dominance with Dowling featuring but having to be replaced due to a knee injury just after half-time. A five point success over South Limerick juggernauts Kilmallock but surgery was required on his knee.
Cuala would lie in wait in the final. Dowling recovered but the side could close not out the final as Cuala forced a replay and then won a tight replay. A result which still leaves a sore taste in the mouth for anyone in Na Piarsaigh club circles. 50/50 calls. Missed opportunities. An opportunity lost.
2018. Na Piarsaigh showed their resiliency from that Cuala final replay loss by retaining their county title against Doon. A glittering club career and even though, Dowling is no longer an intercounty player, he will still have a major influence in the Na Piarsaigh club.
Dowling will be the first to admit that Limerick had several ups but also several key downers.
2013 Munster SHC final success was glorious against Cork at a sun drenched Gaelic Grounds. Dowling prominent throughout; his free taking unerring and his ability to win ball in the full forward line in open play providing the attacking platform.
The All Ireland semi-final a couple of weeks later was a reality check as Clare’s run game and movement were far superior for a sluggish Limerick side on the day. An opportunity lost and the hangover continued the following season as Limerick struggled in NHL 1B for a number of seasons.
Dowling though was a star performer for his county and it was merited with the GAA GPA All Stars Award in 2014 which was due reward for his high performance levels in a side who was struggling for consistency. Railway Cup honors in 2013 and 2016 also showcased the player’s skill set to a national audience.
What a year! John Kiely made the ballsy move of resisting the lure to bring the Na Piarsaigh club members immediately straight back into the starting lineup. Dowling was in the reserves but it proved to be a masterstroke as opposition defenses tiring, Dowling could make an immediate impact in the second half of fixtures.
His cameos in that 2018 season cannot be underestimated. He chipped in with several key scores upon his introduction. The Cork All Ireland semi-final win saw Dowling come on and his performance oozed class. Long range point efforts, that penalty. 1-4. Key to the extra triumph. Leadership and game management to close out the contest.
An All Ireland final buildup is always one which fills me with dread with Limerick. It can go into overdrive, players attentions focused on a Ford car advertising photo shoot but Dowling was on hand to fulfil plenty of media duties and leaving key players to focus on the job at hand. This quote from Dowling for me galvanized supporters belief that it would be our year:
We’re not coming up to March behind the band.Shane Dowling – August 2018
Dowling’s introduction provided added attacking depth to the side in that second half and his superbly taken goal was a vital goal particularly when Galway launched their comeback in the final quarter. Limerick won by a point. Liam McCarthy was coming home to Limerick. Amazing and Dowling was to the core again.
2019: Success but opportunity lost?
Last season was an interesting season. Limerick continued their good form and a NHL final triumph over Waterford saw a Munster SHC final win over Tipperary at Gaelic Grounds. The All Ireland semi-final loss was a bitter pill to swallow for Limerick as Kilkenny blitz in the opening quarter was decisive in the final outcome. Dowling came on and scored an unbelievable batted goal which gave Eoin Murphy no chance. Sideline cut fiasco. Final whistle. The dream had died.
Shane Dowling. Twenty-seven years of age and he has to retire from intercounty due to a serious knee medical prognosis. We will never understand the pain and sacrifice that these ‘amateur’ GAA intercounty and also club players put their bodies and minds through year in year out.
His statement was heart wrenching yesterday. A timely reminder to just stand back and admire these athletes when they return to the GAA pitch in the coming months.
Shane owes nothing to the Limerick jersey. Limerick legend. Best wishes Shane from this Ahane man! A massively impressive person; articulate speaker and person. A man who has a big future wherever he focuses post hurling.