There was many a bitter tear among GAA hacks when Dan Shanahan called it a day. Who were they to turn to now for easy copy? Henry Shefflin? Well, they needn’t have worried as Dan hasn’t gone away you know:
DAN SHANAHAN insists he’s at peace with his decision to walk away from inter-county hurling, even if he clearly feels he had more to offer Waterford.
Dismayed at his lack of game time under Davy Fitzgerald last year, Shanahan retired just two days after the Deise’s All-Ireland semi-final exit at the hands of Tipperary.
The Lismore man admits the decision to retire was based partly on self-preservation. He wanted to be master of his own destiny and feared he might have been forced from the Decies panel had he been available for 2011
“If I’m being honest I probably would have (stayed on had he been playing regular),” he said.
“It’s not being a regular or starting games, it’s just a bit more game time. I thought I deserved more but I didn’t get it and I made a decision myself then to call it a day.
“We all knew Davy was going to stay on (for 2011). I knew it, we all knew for a fact. He was going to stay on. And don’t be surprised if he gets another year with the county board that are there, but that’s their decision.
“I made my decision, I’m happy I made that decision and my club is benefiting big time from it. I started back with my club and I do think I owe them a bit more.”
Would he have been pushed from Waterford if he hadn’t jumped?
“Good question, yeah. I’d say it is 50-50. I could have been pushed a bit but if you train hard and work hard like I’ve done over the years, I can’t fault myself or my effort and it’s up to the management after that.
“If they don’t think I’m good enough to be worth more than five or 10 minutes in a game… it takes five minutes to get into the game at this level and to be getting five minutes to do it…
“I did it against Galway two years ago then took them out of jail again in Thurles in the Munster final last year.”
Ken McGrath recently followed Shanahan out the exit door as the Waterford team that thrilled for the best part of a decade slowly breaks up.
McGrath endured a difficult day at midfield against Cork in the National League and after being called ashore from the sideline, he walked away from the squad.
“You could see why he called it a day,” said Shanahan, who was in Dublin to launch the An Post Cycle Series, which encourages people to cycle.
“I was at the game and felt sorry for the man when he was taken off. He played midfield that day and you’re trying to deal with Donal Og Cusack’s puck-outs and he can put the ball in your mouth.
“And Pa Cronin takes off and the two boys are switching over and back and Ken is in midfield and is trying to follow them at over 30 years of age and with all the injuries he’s had.
“That’s the management team’s decision (to start him at midfield) but why not throw him centre-forward and see how he gets on there?”
Shanahan’s brother Maurice, who is currently out with a broken finger, also considered his Waterford future over the winter.
“Maurice didn’t know whether he was going to go back but he made his decision to go back. I suppose it was hard. Maurice, by a country mile, was the best club forward in Waterford last year.
“Yet he wasn’t one of the five fellas brought on in the semi-final against Tipp. That question answers itself there so at the end of the day he had to think himself whether he was coming back or not.”
It’s popular for GAA players to return from retirement at least once but, recalling the highlights of his career, Shanahan insist there will be no U-turn.
“The lads would have said to me would I be interested in going back. I’ve met them since and I get on brilliantly with them all,” he said.
“We’re great friends and that’s very important for me. We won all the trophies bar the big one but it was nice that what we won, we won it together. That’s the main thing.”
There’s a lot in there, and not all of it as inflammatory as the meeja would like. It’s not unreasonable for a performer of Dan’s calibre to think he could have eked a few more years out of his career, and he doesn’t seem to bear a grudge towards Davy Fitz over him disagreeing with that. He did what he could “and it’s up to the management after that”. You do wonder how much extra game time amounts to “just a bit more” – one wonders whether in reality anything less than a starting position would do – but he is surely absolutely correct that ten minutes, or even less in many cases, is an inadequate amount of time to make an impact on a game. Davy Fitz is hardly alone among managers in that department though.
So far, so reasonable. However, the reason all and sundry will be reading between the lines for criticism of Davy is because his next comments undeniably amount to a criticism of Davy. It seems that if Ken McGrath had been handled better everything would have come up smelling of roses. Yet you have to wonder whether he was watching the Cork game – I’m sure he was, but he didn’t see the game where Ken was absolutely stuffed. If he couldn’t cope with midfielders moving back and forth then how moving him to centre forward – where Donal Óg’s puck-outs really would have been dropping – would have granted him the elixir of life is unexplained. Ken’s race is run. How do we know this? Ken himself said so. Unless Dan has suddenly acquired the ability to read minds, we must assume that Ken thinks so too.
And let’s assume that Davy is a maggot who gets shot of players of whom he is not fond by making their lives a misery, whether it be not giving them enough game time or playing them in impossible positions. If this is so, little brother Maurice must be thrilled to see his doubts regarding the management shared with everyone and anyone. Maurice was peeved becasue he didn’t come on against Tipperary? Let’s look at who did come on. First we had Dan Shanahan and Ken McGrath. They had to come on obviously because, well, they’re Dan the Man and Big Ken. Of the remaining three, Seamus Prendergast and Eoin McGrath both scored so they must have been doing something right, which just leaves Thomas Ryan, a peer of Maurice’s who is surely entitled to expect some ‘game time’ as well. In short, there’s nothing to suggest that Maurice not playing was the result of some vendetta against him from the management. And if there is, having your brother mouthing off about isn’t going to make them come to their senses.
We probably should be grateful for Dan. For his big trap, I mean, not just all those happy memories. Newspapers and websites will cheerfully fill column and screen inches with any ráiméis from the English Premier League if the GAA won’t provide it. But given the potential for in-fighting and distrust caused by these streams-of-consciousness, you do wish it were someone else who were the GAA writer’s meal ticket. Come on Henry, tell us what you really think of Brian Cody!