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‘We love being the favourites’ - Gearóid Hegarty and Limerick embrace drive for five

‘Thankfully, I don’t feel like I’m that age. I feel like I’m getting better still., I feel like I’m pushing myself as hard as I’ve ever pushed myself’

Monday morning coming down, Gearóid Hegarty’s body might be sore, but his mind is still soaring. Limerick are on the road again.

He travelled to Dublin on Sunday evening, just hours after playing a starring role in Limerick’s highwire recovery act in Ennis, and stayed at The Croke Park Hotel to attend a Bord Gáis Energy media event across the road on Monday.

Hegarty is 29 now, the 2020 Hurler of the Year will turn 30 in August, but in that last quarter at Cusack Park at the weekend, Limerick looked as fresh and hungry and unstoppable as they have ever done during this period of success.

“Thankfully, I don’t feel like I’m that age,” says Hegarty. “I feel like I’m getting better still. I feel like I’m pushing myself as hard as I’ve ever pushed myself. I’m big into trying to get better all the time.


“Whether you’re in the gym and you’re lifting a certain weight and you come back the next day and try to lift more, simple things, you know what I mean? I’m constantly trying to improve all the time. I feel young, I feel fresh.”

For three quarters of Sunday’s encounter, Limerick’s drive for five spluttered and rattled against a swashbuckling Clare side. And then John Kiely’s men dropped the handbrake and went up through the gears – it was quite the sight to see them race away to a three-point win, having been nine adrift.

“I genuinely wouldn’t be looking at the scoreboard during matches,” continues Hegarty. “I knew we were under pressure, but I didn’t realise that we were nine points down or eight points down, whatever it was.

“Momentum is a massive thing, they had momentum for long stretches of the first half and they started with all the momentum in the second half.

“It will shift at some stage and we knew that when it shifted we have a great habit of going on a bit of a run.”

The manner of the comeback victory has again turned some of the conversation outside of the dressing room towards the chances of Limerick becoming the first hurling team to win five successive All-Ireland senior titles.

“We acknowledged it at the start of the year that it’s out there, the narrative of the five-in-a-row,” says Hegarty. “I’m not afraid to say it, it’s obviously never been done and it’s a thing people hold a lot of weight on.

“But we’ve acknowledged it every year, there was a narrative before about the three-in-a-row, about the back-to-back, and there was a narrative about the four-in-a-row.

“Those narratives were always there, I just find it’s a privilege to be in that spot, it’s a privilege to be the team that everybody wants to beat, because growing up I hated [Manchester] United because they won every single year and it drove me bananas.

“All of my friends are United fans, I’m a Liverpool fan, they’re the team you want to beat.

“Kilkenny were that team from 2006 onwards, so that’s the team you want to be. It’s a privilege to be in the spot that we’re in, we don’t shirk away from it, we love being the favourites and love going for these things that have never been done before.”

And he is happy for the All-Ireland finals to remain in July, rather than return to a September date as suggested by GAA president Jarlath Burns last week.

“I love the current set-up to be honest with you, I love the structure that the club season has now got. I wouldn’t like necessarily to see them go back to September because I think there’s a lovely structure there at the moment,” he says.

For Limerick, the next few weeks will see them juggle with history, they might never get this close to five-in-a-row again. Hegarty is in a WhatsApp group called Time Waits For No Man.

“And it doesn’t,” he adds. “Enjoyment is a massive factor. You get into hurling because you enjoy it as a kid.

“There’s obviously a massive pressure when you go out on the field, even leading into Sunday and the morning of the game is a horrible time, to be honest, between waking up and getting to where we meet.

“You have a couple of hours where you’re on your own for a bit and I’m driving in and that’s the nervous waiting period. But when you get out on the field and you start your warm-up, that’s when you start to calm down and you get into the flow.

“You’re like, ‘Okay, I’m doing this because I love it’ and the nerves start to dissipate a bit. You start to relax, the ball starts pinging to hand and you’re striking the ball back and you start to feel good about yourself again. That’s why you do it. It’s not going to last forever.

“I keep saying to Limerick people, ‘Eventually this run will come to an end’. That’s literally what is going to happen. Obviously it’s our job to try to keep it going for as long as we can.

“It’s been incredibly enjoyable, we’ve had some unbelievable experiences over the years. And long may it last.”

It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s about to end anytime soon.

– Hegarty was speaking at the launch of Bord Gáis Energy’s ‘That’s Hurling Energy’ campaign.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times