Declan Hannon: ‘I don’t think Limerick can ever be going too well’
Captain believes All-Ireland champions still have plenty room for improvement
Declan Hannon lifts the trophy after Limerick beat Waterford in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
It is one thing in sport being accused of not trying hard enough; being accused of trying too hard is perhaps harder to fathom, something Declan Hannon still can’t get his head around.
It was one of charges levelled against Limerick after their Allianz Hurling League success last month: after waiting 45 years to win the All-Ireland, they closed the 22-year gap on their last league title with a little more to spare, keeping Waterford at bay throughout to win by eight points in the end.
In doing so they also proved hurling league finals don’t always have to be the graveyard of All-Ireland champions. Outside of Kilkenny, who managed it four times in recent years, Galway were the last team to win a league title immediately after the All-Ireland, and that was back in 1989.
Still there was the sense the 2019 league was only shadow hurling, given there was no relegation, and the new round-robin championships in Munster and Leinster carrying greater weight. And if Limerick won so easily, what could they improve on for the summer?
Careers are getting shorter so you want to be as successful as you can and try make hay when the sun shines
“Eh, I don’t think Limerick can ever be going too well,” says Hannon, the Limerick captain not quite scratching his head, as well he might. “There is always massive room for improvement. Even in the league final we didn’t play to our best, I don’t think.
“We had a lot of wides and gave away a lot of frees and even throughout the league we conceded plenty of goals. So there’s loads to work on, I wouldn’t say we are going as well as we could be anyway. So, look, we want to push on and get ready for the championship.”
‘A lot of effort’
The notion that some teams went out to lose games in the league hardly merits much response either: “Well I can’t control other counties, and I don’t think any team goes out to lose a game. We were very disappointed coming off the field after the Cork game, and losing can become a bit of a habit as well, if you’re up and down in the league, don’t really know where you are at. I know I’d definitely be winning these games rather than come out the wrong side of them.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into the league, got our reward for it. I can’t commit on what lads are doing in other counties, I don’t know what they’re doing. Again, we’re weren’t happy throughout the league, conceding a lot of goals, a lot of frees, in a lot of games, had a lot of wides, missed a lot of chances. So we didn’t do everything right, definitely not. There is loads of improvement there, come the championship.
“I don’t read too much into it to be honest. Like, we focus on ourselves, we focus on putting in good performances in matches and we’ve done that so far.
“You don’t know what is going to happen in the next three or four years, if people have work commitments, people have different things going on, careers in GAA are getting a lot shorter. When are they going to hit a peak? I don’t know, it could be this year, it could have been last year. We are just going to take it game by game in the championship and try to give as good a performance as we can and see where it takes us. That’s all we can do really.”
Manager John Kiely also made the point of winning as much as possible while Limerick could.
“Absolutely. As I said, careers are getting shorter so you want to be as successful as you can and try make hay when the sun shines,” says Hannon.
“There are a few lads on the panel at the minute, not a massive amount. So that’s a big motivation for us, but getting into the top three in Munster is going to be hard enough in itself. If you get to a Munster final it’s a bonus. Our focus is on Cork in the Gaelic Grounds in the first round, if you win then great but if you lose then straight away you are on the back foot and it makes Munster very, very tough to get out of then.”