*Shane Meehan under pressure from Limerick’s Richie English. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

SHANE MEEHAN is anxious to make the most of the Munster Senior Hurling League in his bid to gain a more prominent role for the Clare hurlers in 2024 while he has ruled out the prospect of trying to juggle dual commitments at inter-county level in the future.

Clare will have their opening game in the Co-op Superstores Munster Senior Hurling League on January 10th when they welcome All-Ireland champions Limerick to O’Garney Park in Sixmilebridge.

Meehan made his senior championship debut when introduced as a half-time substitute in Clare’s 0-24 1-21 draw with Limerick in the Munster SHC in May 2022, while he had been named to start in their first round encounter against Tipperary a month previous but a hamstring injury kept him out of action.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Shane stressed the importance of the pre-season competition for players like him hoping to make their senior breakthrough. “As a team we’ve our own objectives and we’ll be going after every game we play even in the Munster League so early in the year it’s a chance to make a stake for a place in the team and for the young lads it is a huge opportunity to get minutes and test yourself at the best level”.

“I’m chomping at the bit, any time you get a chance to put on a Clare jersey is a massive honour so when you do get the chance you have to grab it with two hands, these games are perfect for me and the younger lads or guys trying to get their fitness back, games are why we play the game”.

Setbacks such as the hamstring injury are behind him, the Banner GAA clubman hopes. “At the minute I’m fit and good to go, acclimatising to senior took a year or two for me because I was picking up niggles, I’ve been doing a good bit in the gym so I’m hoping I will have an injury free year”.

Skill was not the only reason Meehan caught the eye when lining out at minor level for Clare but also his footwork and his ability to squeeze through challenges. This he credits with an athletics involvement while in primary school. “I would have done a nice bit of running, I did athletics which would have helped, then it was a bit natural too I suppose, playing so much sport you get an ability to break tackles, I’ve seen clips of my father playing and he was similar in a sense like that, he would have been all football with Doughmore in Galway. When he moved to Clare, he got involved in the hurling straight away and I’d say he is nearly a bigger hurling fan at this stage”.

Patrick Crotty, Keith Smyth, John Conneally, Cian Galvin and Darragh Lohan are among the players that will be keen to utilise the Munster senior hurling as a strong audition before the National Hurling League commences on February 4th. “It is a great chance for all the young lads to get a chance to play and put yourself in the picking for the National League and then into the Munster championship”.

Ennis’ Shane points out that Clare were represented by Mark Rodgers at the launch last year, the Scariff forward would go on to become a regular in the starting fifteen and ended 2023 as the young hurler of the year. “Mark Rodgers hadn’t played championship when he came to this launch last year, look at the year he went on to have, he started in the Munster League and played all the games in the competition, it shows that it gives you something to build off for the year coming”.

Brian Lohan and Shane Meehan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Given that Shane was the one chosen to attend the launch, it may be viewed as a sign that management are planning to give him an enhanced role for 2024. “I’d take it as extra responsibility, at least he (Brian Lohan) knows I’m trustworthy enough to go up, it’s enjoyable to come and meet the lads from the other counties”.

Brian Lohan and his management currently have a number of new players on trial with a finalised panel to be decided in advance of their first NHL outing against Cork. “They are perfect for trying to make sure you are at the level that you will be playing against, there’s the other lads like Cathal Malone, David McInerney that will really make you test yourself,” Meehan said of the new additions keeping them on their toes.

Lohan has added two-time All Star Brendan Bugler to his management as coach along with S&C coach Lukasz Kirszenstein. “They’ve been really good and a breath of fresh air into it, I was with the U20s with Brendan before so I knew he was a brilliant trainer, he has been excellent straight away and we have Lukas too doing our S&C, he has been really good and really professional, he has been with county teams before and you can tell straight away because he is a really good guy and very professional,” Meehan said of their impact.

Currently in third year in Mary Immaculate College where he is training to become a primary school teacher, Shane is also part of the Fitzgibbon Cup squad. “It is busy enough, you’d be kept on your toes. Jamie Wall is over us, he is a first cousin of Podge Collins and Podge is helping us with the coaching. There’s communication between the two managements so you know when to go and when to pull back so it’s not too bad”.

Collins is likely to be the last dual-player for Clare’s seniors with Meehan a former minor football captain who admitting he doesn’t envisage playing both codes for his county again, having done so at minor and U20 levels. “To be honest I couldn’t see how it could be done. You’ve so much to go through. At the minute I’m so occupied and involved with the hurling that it is all I’d be thinking about to be honest, I enjoy the football with the club, it is a nice way to get the break from the hurling and it is really enjoyable in that sense”.

Not alone is he balancing Clare’s preparations with the Fitzgibbon Cup but there is the not so small matter of his studies thrown into the mix. “You have to keep on top of the books as well and my mother is good to remind me that! You have to use your time wisely, take time for the books when you need to and focus on the hurling too”.

Given that any inter-county player tends to have a high proportion of teachers in their dressing room, Shane knows which teammate he’d be approaching if he needed any assistance with lesson plans. “David McInerney is probably the most reliable but he mightn’t give it to you is the only thing, he is a primary school teacher so I’d have to hop it off him or Eamonn Foudy who would have all the files tucked away for himself”. On the other hand, he picks out Cian Galvin and Darragh Lohan as two players he’d be very reluctant to suss out for teaching tips.

Earlier this month, Shane celebrated his 21st birthday, it’s grand to have a Christmas birthday a double celebration so it’s not too bad”. The time of year can often lead to pause for reflection and looking back on Clare’s run in 2023 Shane said, “It was a very positive year in the sense that you’re getting a day out in Croke Park, you’re in a Munster final but the only thing is we did the same thing the year before and you’re just looking to progress and step on. We aren’t any closer than we were last year in that we were still a puck of a ball away from an All-Ireland final, it can be frustrating but you have to lick your wounds, get back on the horse and see where you went wrong”.

“You’re always trying to strive to achieve more, there is great work being done by Club Clare and all sorts of funds with people giving of their money, I know they’re launching new memberships in the next week so we know everyone is putting in a lot of effort and their time so it is up to us to push on ourselves and make it worthwhile,” he added.

Given that he was involved with the Banner’s run in the Munster junior club championship, the Clare IFC and his club’s U21 campaigns in both codes, Shane has not been idle since Kilkenny defeated Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final in July. He isn’t complaining about the lack of time off, “I had a couple of weeks. We went away for a week when we got knocked out with Clare, after we got beaten with the Banner I had a week or two off so it was grand, it was fine”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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