Phil Shanahan - Toomevara

Munster Hurling Final program. Semple Stadium, Thurles, July 12, 2009


When one mentions Phil Shanahan one is talking about one of the greatest centrefield players that the county has produced down the years. He was a commanding figure, a real Toomevara Greyhound, who could stay going all day, a man with a tremendous workrate. A powerful man, he could hold his own with the best and he was always in tip-top shape. He played at a time when centrefield play was much more vital in the scheme of hurling things than it is today.

He was centrefield on the three-in-a-row teams of 1949, 1950 and 1951, alongside different partners in each year, Sean Kenny, Seamus Bannon and fellow-Toomevara player, John Hough. He was one of eight players who played in the same position for the three championships.

Born in the parish of Toomevara in January 1928, Phil showed early promise making his debut at senior level with his club in the 1945 championship, while still only seventeen years of age. Toomevara were back in senior ranks for the first time since 1938, when they failed to field a team in the first round of the senior championship. In 1946 Phil won his first divisional medal when they defeated Roscrea in the North final, their first victory since 1931.

He made his county debut with the minors in 1946, losing the All-Ireland to Dublin as the result of a disputed goal. Phil’s first entry into senior ranks was to be selected on the 1948/49 National League team at centrefield and won the first of four league medals, the others coming in 1952, 1953 and 1957. 

It was the start of three glorious years with Tipperary during which Phil played a pivotal role at centrefield, winning three Munster finals and three All-Irelands. Other achievements from this period include an Oireachtas medal in 1949 and successive Monaghan Cup medals between 1949-1953. Thomond Feis medals were won in 1949 and 1951. He was on the successful Ireland teams in the Representative Games series in 1952 and 1953, winning the Sports Star of the Week award in 1952 for his display on Joe Salmon of Galway. Four Railway Cup medals were won in 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953. He was long puck champion of Ireland in 1951.

Early in 1950 Phil left his father’s farm to work in Johnson Mooney and O’Brien bakery in Dublin and play hurling with the Young Irelands club. He continued playing for Tipperary until 1953, moving to centreforward in the latter year. He played for Dublin in 1954 and 1955, partnering Norman Allen in the former and Con Murphy in the latter year at centrefield. Dublin were beaten by Wexford in the 1954 Leinster final and by Kilkenny in the 1955 Leinster semi-final. 

In 1956 he returned to the county when he started working with Esso. He retired from inter-county hurling after returning from the league trip to the U.S. In 1957. Then began a very fruitful period of his career with Toomevara. He played in seven consecutive North finals from 1957-63, winning four and losing in 1957, 1959 and 1963. He captained the team in 1958. There were three county final appearances, with defeats in 1958 and 1961, and a great victory over Thurles Sarsfields in 1960, a victory that prevented the Thurles club winning six in a row.

Phil eventually retired from club hurling in 1966 after a career of over twenty years. He turned his attention to training and coaching. His training career began with Portlaoise, where he helped the club to five senior football titles between 1966 and 1971. He attained a coaching certificate in hurling in 1977. When he retired from Esso in 1982 he trained and coached Killenaule to win three South Tipperary intermediate championships in hurling, in 1983, 1985 and 1986.

During the past number of years Phil has been awarded a number of sporting honours, which are testament to his standing in the field of sport. He was selected on the North Tipperary Centenary Hurling Team in 2001. Early in 2004 he received the Hall of Fame award in the Roscrea Awards and was elected a member of Cumann na Sean Gael at the end of the same year. In March of this year he was given a Special Recognition Award in the Roscrea Awards for his part in the winning All-Ireland team of 1949.

Phil believes that Tipperary should beat Waterford today. They have a young team that's improving. However, he thinks they need more physical presence in the forward line. In fact he would see this lack of physical presence all over the field as the main failing of the team. He wishes every success to the team. He recognises the range of talents in the Waterford side, especially the danger posed by John Mullane.