All-Ireland SHC Quarter-final: Waterford v Wexford: Dan Shanahan
While Dan Shanahan didn’t fully embrace Davy Fitzgerald’s approach in his twilight years with Waterford, he has come to respect the managerial achievements of the current Wexford bainisteoir.
In the summer of 2008, the pair didn’t see eye to eye as the former Clare goalkeeper urged the Déise half forwards to play deeper.
“You could see what he was trying to do,” Shanahan considers on reflection.“For me, as an older lad, it probably didn’t suit my game at the end of my career. You see the way Clare won the All Ireland, how Wexford are playing now and how Waterford played when I was gone, they were more tactical. He did it with LIT and other club teams as well.”
He scored just one goal (in the All Ireland quarter final against Wexford) during that injury plagued season where the old guard were a little resistant to the tactical adjustments. “He wanted to change the way we played from the free-flowing hurling to going seven or eight at the back and pushing on and going with speed. He has done it as a player and as a manager whether it’s with LIT, winning a Munster crown with us, winning an All Ireland with Clare and he got Wexford to a Leinster final as well. If that penalty went in, they could be Leinster champions. Anywhere he’s went, he’s got results.”
Both Davy and Dan have accomplished notable victories over Kilkenny in this year’s championship. The Waterford squad came back down off that high in time for training last Tuesday. “We parked it straight away like we always do. It’s great to be in the next round and that’s the way we look at it. We’re in the quarter finals of the All Ireland and that was our objective after being beaten by Cork.”
It was a case of job well done for the management team after sucking the life out of the Cats attack and countering with four goals. “It’s great when these things come off and the game plan that we provided for the lads worked. Sometimes it doesn’t work and it can be frustrating but it worked against Kilkenny. It will be different the next day I can guarantee you that against Davy Fitz because he’s very tactical whereas Brian Cody mightn’t be as tactical. You have a great chance when you don’t concede an early goal against Kilkenny so that was a big thing.”
Shanahan acknowledges that Fitzgerald will arrive to PáircUíChaoimhwith a clearer understanding of Waterford’s formation. “He’s definitely going to come with something different. He’s played a sweeper there all year and he could go with two sweepers the next day. It’s going to be different with Davy. He knows Waterford hurling inside out with Pauric Fanning and Jimmy Payne involved as well. He knows a lot of the players from his time with Waterford so there’s nothing going to faze Davy.”
The Model manager placed James Breen on TJ Reid and Conor Whelan during the Leinster championship while Matthew O’Hanlon also negated Joe Canning last time out. “In the games so far, he’s put his key players on key players. It’s up to our lads to win those individual battles. When you cross the white line, some things mightn’t go to plan and it’s up to the players to sort them out. He’ll have his troops organised and playing with aggression. For our lads to beat Wexford, we’ll have to match them for aggression.”
Austin Gleeson will surely be one of Davy’s targets on Sunday. Hisreturn to prominence through the backdoor rounds didn’t surprise Shanahan in the slightest. Even though he has been substituted on three occasions this season, including the Munster semi final, his demeanour never waned. Ten years on from capturing the hurler of the year award, Shanahan realised the increased weight of expectation on Gleeson heading into the championship. “I probably know a small bit about this, there was a bit of pressure put on his shoulders after getting young hurler of the year and hurler of the year. Did the rest of the lads ever question Austin Gleeson? No way. He has an abundance of talent and he’s a great young fella off the field as well. He’s never caused us any trouble on or off the field. When lads like Austin give a hundred and ten per cent, we can’t ask for any more to be honest with you. Every fella does that. Austin’s after getting eleven points in the two games but those games are gone, I won’t have to tell Austin that or Derek won’t because he knows that himself. He’s still a young man but he’s very mature for his age.”
Shanahan appreciates how tough it is to come back and deliver on the big stage after winning the top individual prize in the game. “It is because you’re getting extra attention. With the way teams are setting up now, he’s going to have extra markers but that makes space for other players. It’s not about Austin or any individual, it’s about the 33 lads and seventeen in the backroom team. As a unit, the fifty of us, all we do is try to do our best on the day to win our battles.”