Clonakilty’s David Lowney is helping put hurling on the map in football country
THE national hurling love-in has reached West Cork shores.
Even football country, the traditional stronghold of the big ball – here, west of the viaduct – has made room for the small ball in recent times.
Luke Meade and Michael Cahalane are flying the flag at senior level, winning back-to-back Munster championships, while Ciáran Nyhan (Ballinascarthy), Ronan McCarthy (St Oliver Plunkett’s) and Sean Twomey (Courcey Rovers) helped Cork win the U17 All-Ireland last year. Padraic Cullinane (Ballinascarthy) and Cian McCarthy (St Oliver Plunkett’s) were involved with the Cork minors this summer.
This Sunday, Clonakilty’s David Lowney and Castlehaven’s Conor Cahalane will do their part to inspire the next generation of West Cork hurlers when the Rebel U21s meet Tipperary in the All-Ireland final at the Gaelic Grounds.
This is a rematch of the Munster final in early July that Cork won at a canter, 2-23 to 1-13.
‘Hopefully, for young fellas in West Cork watching on, this can inspire them and encourage them to follow their dreams of hurling at a high level,’ Lowney said.
‘I looked up to Mike Cahalane when I was younger, he was a few years older than me, but I wanted to be where he was, so I put the head down and worked hard. Just because you’re from West Cork, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it. Luke and Mike have shown you can, look at what they’ve achieved, and hopefully we can win an All-Ireland medal this weekend.’
Home for Lowney is Clon. It’s where he learned his trade, both hurling and football. He sees the big numbers hurling underage in the club now, there’s serious talent there, but it wasn’t always like that.
He namechecks Tom Lyons as a driving force both for hurling in the club and his own journey.
‘When hurling wasn’t going well in Clon, Tom took it on himself and instigated a new crop that have gone on to win the West Cork junior A,’ Lowney explained.
‘Tom was my coach from U6 all the way up to U16 and minor. He was the first one who introduced me to the U14 development squads; he was a selector back then. He got me involved in that from day one, and he helped give me the opportunity to develop and grow.’
Dual player Lowney has developed into one of the division’s finest hurlers, and playing at the highest standard all the time is important, the UCC student points out.
‘You have to play at a high level, especially when it’s hurling,’ he said.
‘If you come away from hurling for four, five, six weeks, and you come back and play a lower standard, you won’t do yourself justice. You have to play to the highest standard you can to maintain a good level.
‘I play hurling with UCC which is a high standard. From November and December on, we’re playing and training for the Fitzgibbon Cup and that’s a competition with inter-county standard players.
‘Come the summer time I play county championship with UCC.
‘I opted for UCC over Carbery because it’s a higher standard so I am playing a high enough level all the year round.’
Lowney is heading in his third year studying PE and Irish at UCC, and by the time he’s back in college he hopes to have an All-Ireland medal added to his CV.
Cork are favourites on Sunday, off the back of the wins against Waterford, Tipperary and then Wexford, and it’s the 13-point victory against Tipp in the Munster final that suggests this is Cork’s game to lose.
Lowney’s not buying that theory.
‘This is a whole new game, both teams have improved since then so I wouldn’t read too much into what’ s gone on before,’ he said.
‘There is a saying that “no man steps into the same river twice”. This is a different game, a different venue, we’re looking forward, not back. It’s in the past, we’re not talking about the Munster final, we’re focussing on ourselves and our game.
‘We’re training hard, we’re going to stay with the process and trust that the work we have done is enough to get us over the line.’
An All-Ireland U21 title would be another boost to Cork hurling after a season of progression, and it would also show that West Cork can and does produce county standard hurlers.