Shane Lowry: The importance of Offaly GAA's biggest fan

Shane Lowry at Croke Park
Lowry (pictured with arms aloft) in attendance at Croke Park as Offaly became All-Ireland Under-20 football champions last year

As the world's best golfers jostled for position atop the US Open leaderboard on day two at Brookline, another significant sporting event was taking place.

Nearly 3,000 miles away in the County Tipperary town of Thurles, young hurlers from Offaly and Clare were doing battle in their All-Ireland Minor semi-final.

Having missed the cut by a single shot, Shane Lowry momentarily put disappointment aside and turned his attentions to the game.

It would take a lot for the 2019 Open champion to miss a match involving his native Offaly, and he sent a picture to the county's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) chairperson Michael Duignan to let him know that he was tuning in.

"He'd just missed the cut in the US Open by a shot but he was watching the match," Duignan recalls.

"That's fairly regular when he's away. I think it's good for him as well because it keeps him involved and keeps him close."

Son to Brendan Lowry, a corner forward when Offaly won their most recent All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in 1982, Shane was brought up within the county's GAA community.

Despite now living in America, Lowry remains deeply and uniquely invested in Offaly GAA, as Duignan explains on this week's GAA Social podcast.

"He gave us some money himself. I won't say how much that was because it's private, but he gave us some money," he said.

"It's more that he's partnering with us. He's supporting us and he's very interested in what we're doing.

"While money is very important I think his involvement is more important, in that he is with us and he's so interested.

"I met him the other day and he was talking about the minor hurlers, the Under-20 football match and the seniors - he knows all the players.

"It's like he's still living at home and he's still one of the lads going to the matches. If he was at home he'd be at every match."

'When you meet him his eyes blaze'

Offaly GAA remains a major passion for Lowry, who has committed to helping support the county's GAA body with annual fundraisers such as golf tournaments that will bring in priceless revenue.

But Lowry's impact and significance to Offaly, Duignan insists, is far deeper in its meaning than mere financial assistance.

It has been a while since Offaly dined at the top table of either senior hurling or football. Plotting a path back to the pinnacle of both codes is a daunting task, but one that persuaded Duignan to take on the role of chairperson in 2019.

In pursuit of that journey, Duignan believes the county could learn a lot from Lowry.

"I don't think people realise how determined he is and how passionate that man is. When you meet him his eyes blaze," he said.

"I think people see him as this easy going, happy-go-lucky fella, he's not. He's very determined, very ambitious and I think I'd see myself the same.

"I don't like being involved in things unless you think you're going to win. If I didn't think Offaly could win All-Irelands again I wouldn't be involved.

"It might be mad but that's the way you have to think, because if you don't have that ambition you can't achieve. That's what impresses me about him.

"He's out there to win majors and to compete, and his consistency has been unbelievable in the last 12 months."

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