Shane Lowry forms official partnership with Offaly GAA
By Kevin Egan
Offaly GAA will have the support of the reigning Open champion behind them as they bid to rediscover their glory days in the football and hurling championships over the coming years.
On Thursday afternoon the Faithful County announced that Shane Lowry, son of All-Ireland winning corner forward Brendan, would become an official partner of the county, putting his experience, his expertise and his financial support behind the county’s activity, particularly in the area of underage development and their commercial and fundraising activities.
Offaly GAA are in the process of preparing a Strategic Plan which will have a significant focus on player development. As an elite international sportsman, Shane has offered his experience and expertise to inspire and help improve this process.
This isn’t the first time that Shane Lowry has worked with his native county, the most notable example being his involvement with the Faithful Fields project, the county’s state of the art training facility in Kilcormac.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Shane mentioned how it was Limerick’s win in last year’s All-Ireland hurling championship that inspired him to try and find ways to aid Offaly’s cause, and in particular a text conversation with Limerick sponsor and backer JP McManus.
"It was the evening of the hurling final and Limerick had won the All-Ireland for the second time in the last few years. I'm friendly with Gerry McManus, the younger brother of JP, who is involved in everything down there in Limerick.
"Now, what I’m able to give Offaly is a lot less than JP and his family gives there, but I sent JP a text saying that I was sure he was very proud with Limerick’s win and congratulating him for all he had done for Limerick.
"I did say I would only love to do something similar for Offaly and JP said that the underage system was where I could help, that’s where they put the structures in place in Limerick that led to their recent success.
"I met Michael (Duignan, Offaly chairman) over Christmas and we went out to the Faithful Fields. It is one of the best training facilities in the country and to have that there and not have the structures in place is kind of sad. So, I said I'd come on board and I have now and I will help as much as I can. It’s a long road ahead for Offaly GAA but I hope it’s the start of great things.
"I don’t expect this will make any difference in the next year or two, but in sport you sometimes don’t realise how close success can be. Offaly had teams in both the Leinster minor football and hurling finals last year when the lockdown kicked in, the first time that happened since 1989, so this isn’t the starting blocks, there is progress being made.
“Sometimes all it needs is one successful minor team to pull together and then you never know, 5 or 6 or 7 years later you could have those great days again.
“In 10 or 20 years if I could see an Offaly man walk up the steps of Croke Park I would probably die a happy man.”
Shane spoke of his own playing career with Clara, and how he has retained his passion for Offaly, even while living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Any time I get the chance to go to O’Connor Park and watch Offaly or Clara play, I do. I’m the first to give out if they lose and I am sitting in the stand. Things haven’t been great for a few years, but I had to focus on my own career in order to give it all the time and effort that was needed.
“Now, after the Open, I feel at my level now I can go and meet certain people. I’m an Offaly person who has travelled and I’m sure many other Offaly people who have come to places like America and been successful in their own field, and if they see this, maybe they might want to get involved.
“It’s not all about money. I see the job Michael Duignan and his people have done since coming in and when I see that passion, it’s brilliant. With the right plan in place, it can work but it can’t be defined by results.
“If I believe I’m doing the right thing in my game, I'm happy. And as long as I believe that, then we are going in the right direction. Michael and his team will put a plan in place for this and as long as they’re happy that’s where progress will come from".