“IT’S BEEN A mad few months”.

Shane Dowling reflects on a year of contrasting All-Ireland final experiences.

Late March generated the heart-breaking disappointment with Na Piarsaigh of a club final loss in a replay thriller. Mid August saw him reach the peak with the Limerick hurlers in Croke Park.

And next Sunday he’ll aim to round off 2018 by entering the Munster winners enclosure once more with Na Piarsaigh.

He’s declared himself fit for that provincial showdown, despite having his arm in a sling at the end of their recent semi-final win over Clonoulty-Rossmore.

“Basically the shoulder pops out and slips back in. It’s happened three or four times, I’ll eventually have to get an operation on it. It takes six months to recover from and I don’t have six months to spare.

“This can’t happen from a shoulder or anything, it’s me over-reaching or just having my arm in a particular way. Basically I’ve two bad shoulders and I’ve two massive bunions on the side of my feet so sometime I’ll go in, get the whole lot done, come out in a wheelchair and I’ll have had the full service done!

“But I don’t have the time for that now so I’ll stay going. It takes three or for days for the soreness to go away. The lads said does it play on your mind or anything, it’s happened me four times. But sure how many hurling matches have I played? It’s few and far between.”

He experienced the frustration of watching on last season, helpless due to a knee injury as he rested on crutches and watched Na Piarsaigh duel it out with Ballygunner, their opponents again this time around.

“It killed me, especially the way we played, the boys in the first half, Ballygunner tore them asunder. The only consolation was we only went in a point down. We hadn’t pucked a ball.

“I was hoping that they’d come to life in the second half and they did but it’s a very, very touch watch. Especially when you know you can be out there doing something but listen I’m 25, that was my first serious injury. I can’t be giving out too much, I’ve been lucky, touch wood.”

Dowling is helped off the Gaelic Grounds pitch by Dr. Kieran Breen.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

This season has made him appreciate the good moments in hurling, given the year started off with a setback.

“It was the worst experience of my life in March, no two ways about it,” says Dowling of the two-game saga with the Dublin champions.

“I won’t talk about that because I still can’t and probably never will be (able to). I mean at that stage there, you think your sporting career is a disaster.

“You’ve a free 40 yards out in front of the goal to put your team four points up and it’s game over and you miss it. Then a penalty goes in the other end and you’re beaten in a replay. You just couldn’t write that stuff.

“To go from literally an all-time low to five months later you’re at an all-time high. Sport is mad that way. The highs and lows are very, very close to each other. It was amazing the way it worked out.

“Would you have taken that club final if you knew what was going to happen five months later? You probably would. I was lucky enough to have one already and it was magic what happened. It’s something I always dreamed of. So it’s been a mad few months.”

Limerick saw off Galway in August’s All-Ireland decider.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

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Dowling filled a different role in the Limerick ranks, sprung into action as a substitute to make critical scoring contributions during the summer.

He was one of six Na Piarsaigh players in the squad yet only Mike Casey managed to nail down a starting berth.

“I don’t think victims of our own success is the right terminology but I hear what you’re saying. We started off with Limerick in November ’16, that finished in July ’17 when Kilkenny beat us.

“It was straight back in with Na Piarsaigh up until March ’18 and then it was straight back in with Limerick until August this year and it was straight back in with Na Piarsaigh. So it’s two years on the trot, an odd week here or two weeks here.

“It’s been fairly relentless but I’d rather be sitting here in front of ye talking to ye about that than saying my club was knocked out three months ago, I’ve done nothing for the last three months, bring on the New Year.

“You need a mental break more so than anything but listen we’ve a driven bunch of players. A competitive bunch of players.

“Peter Casey called over to the house the other night and we played a board game called 30 seconds and I’m not joking you, you don’t want to lose that because if you lose that, it’s bad.

“I’m not joking, the competitiveness within the group is huge and I think that’s what drives us on.”

Who won the board game?

“He did! I was disgusted.”

On Sunday they’ll bid to land another Munster title in Semple Stadium and write another successful chapter in their 2018 tale.

  • Na Piarsaigh and Limerick’s Shane Dowling is pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Munster Senior Hurling Club Championship Final where they face Ballygunner on Sunday, November 18th at Semple Stadium.
  • AIB is in its 28th season sponsoring the GAA Club Championship and will celebrate their 6th season sponsoring the Camogie Association.

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