It was a bad day at the office for the Wexford footballers on Saturday, losing to Waterford, but it was a notable occasion for Skibbereen’s David Shannon who made his first senior inter-county start. He spoke to KIERAN McCARTHY
DAVID Shannon has never lacked in confidence.
Go back to the very start of O’Donovan Rossa’s U21A football campaign in 2011, a season that harvested South West and county titles, and one evening at training, the management asked who’d be interested in taking penalties.
Two hands shot up. Rob McCarthy. David Shannon.
Ice-cool Shannon won the shoot-out, rifling every penalty to the net. The job was his.
So it should be, he’d laugh.
Pressure doesn’t bother him, he has the broad shoulders to carry it.
Six years later when he got a phone call to see was he interested in linking up with the Wexford senior football team, he didn’t hesitate either. The hand shot up again.
Bring it on.
In the middle of last week, the 27-year-old from Lissanuhig, just outside Skibbereen, learned that he was starting for Wexford in their All-Ireland SFC Round 1 qualifier at home to Waterford on Saturday.
Again, he took it in his stride.
Shannon never played underage for Cork but made had made his debut as a second-half sub in the Leinster SFC loss to Laois last month – but last Saturday was his first senior championship start.
Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale ending. Waterford won 3-14 to 1-18, their first championship win in seven years. Wexford’s, and Shannon’s, inter-county season is over.
The Skibb man played the first half and was subbed at the break – but the sudden championship exit shouldn’t take away from Shannon’s rise to the highest level with Wexford.
‘The first game I was eligible to play for Wexford was against Laois. I’m in with then since the very start of this season but I couldn’t play in the national league – I was ineligible until I played a club championship match in Wexford,’ he explains.
‘I would have been hoping for more of a run-out against Laois but I picked up a thigh injury three weeks before the game which set me back.’
A few weeks later than he had hoped, he got the nod to start against Waterford and his friends and team-mates from home in Skibb will have noticed a leaner Shannon in his new, brighter colours.
‘I’m fitter than ever before – but that wouldn’t be hard, in fairness,’ he laughs.
‘I’m down around 10kg compared to when I played my last senior championship game with Skibbereen.
‘We always trained hard in Skibb to be fair but I never fully committed myself either because of work and college. I’ve settled down here, have a job and stuff, and am happy enough playing football four, five nights a week.’
What we have now, in his own words, is a settled Shannon.
He works as Garda in Enniscorthy since March 2016, lives in Wexford Town, plays his club football now with St John’s Volunteers after transferring from O’Donovan Rossa, and there’s a structure there now that’s allowing him see how far his football can take him.
‘It’s a pity really that I didn’t go for it from the start,’ he muses, ‘but I’ve no regrets either. I’m happy enough at the moment.’
Putting Saturday’s championship exit to one side, life’s good in Wexford right now. There are no plans to move back home to Skibb in the immediate future. He has set down his roots for the time being and he wants to see what comes of this.
‘This all came out of the blue,’ he admits.
‘I’d never dreamed of playing inter-county and it never crossed my mind when I moved here. But when the chance came, I said I’d take it and see where it goes.
‘It started last year when I was still playing with Rossa. I was training in Wexford with St John’s Volunteers because I was missing training down home with work and travel.
‘Their manager at the time, Paul McLoughlin, got the Wexford manager’s job this year so he would have seen plenty of me.’
McLoughlin got in contact again with Shannon, invited him in to the Wexford senior set-up.
‘He felt I’d add something to the Wexford panel,’ he says.
With Skibb, Shannon was a threat, never the main man in attack, but an awkward physical presence in the full-forward line who can score.
He’ll feel frustrated that he never got to show Wexford supporters a fully-firing Shannon, having missed the league and now no more interest in this season’s championship.
‘When the league was on and I couldn’t play, I trained away with the lads during the week and when they played at the weekend I’d do my own session to keep my fitness up.
‘Because I couldn’t play the games the match fitness wasn’t up to standard. I had to rely on club games to keep me going.’
He is after three intermediate A championship matches with St John’s Volunteers and four league matches – and the target is to win promotion to the intermediate ranks for 2019.
Former Skibbereen RFC player Shannon, whose older brother Kieran captains the team, has also been making a name for himself on the rugby field with Gorey for the past few seasons and was included on the Leinster junior inter-provincial panel last year – but it’s on the football field where he hopes to leave a lasting impression, though it will be next season now before he lines out for Wexford again.
‘I plan to stay here for another year or so anyway because I am enjoying the football at the moment,’ explains the former Munster junior bowling champion.
‘Hopefully I’ll get to play in the national league next year, that’s the plan. I missed out this year but I’d love to get a league under my belt.
‘Wexford got relegated this year so we’ll be in Division 4 next season so maybe there’s a chance of winning a national league title and getting promotion back to Division 3.’
The only way is up now for Wexford’s senior footballers, and Shannon hopes to make waves when his next chance comes around.