Patience and hard work proves the formula for Gearóid Hegarty

It took time but Limerick star has emulated and surpassed achievements of his father Ger

Ger Hegarty   at the launch of the second series of Bord Gáis Energy’s GAAGAABox. “As I grew up and matured a bit I just realised I wasn’t good enough, eventually the hard work paid off, when I got a break on the Limerick under-21 hurling, when John [Kiely] was over them.”  Photograph:  Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ger Hegarty at the launch of the second series of Bord Gáis Energy’s GAAGAABox. “As I grew up and matured a bit I just realised I wasn’t good enough, eventually the hard work paid off, when I got a break on the Limerick under-21 hurling, when John [Kiely] was over them.” Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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They still say the most reliable pathway to success in sport or life is to choose your parents wisely, only for a while there Gearóid Hegarty wasn’t so sure.

Being the son of a renowned and successful Limerick hurling father wasn’t necessarily any great burden, and yet at times he felt a certain embarrassment at the prospect of not living up to it.

The lesson is still there in the telling of it: during his two years as a Limerick minor, Hegarty didn’t see one minute of playing time, his father Ger – who served over a decade on the Limerick senior team, winning league and Munster titles, losing the 1994 All-Ireland final to Offaly – only ever delivering words of encouragement.

Still that didn’t mean Hegarty didn’t feel the expectation from elsewhere.

“I probably did when I was younger, on the Limerick academy, under-14, under-15,” he says.

“Probably felt it a bit then because I wasn’t good enough to be starting on the A team, I was always on the B team growing up. I was two years playing minor as well, but never got a minute, and did kind of feel embarrassed when I was younger that my father had played for Limerick for so long, and he was such an important player on that team, playing centre-back, midfield, one of the most important positions.

“And there I was on the minor panel for two years and never got a look, just because I wasn’t good enough at the end of the day. So I did feel embarrassed, especially my second year minor, I was hoping to progress, and then I nearly kind of regressed, where I wasn’t even making the subs bench.

“As I grew up and matured a bit I just realised I wasn’t good enough, eventually the hard work paid off, when I got a break on the Limerick under-21 hurling, when John [Kiely] was over them. I know it’s the same, hard work will pay off eventually, it just took me a long, long time for the hard work to pay off. But it will, if you keep going with it.”

Hegarty certainly wasn’t alone: teammates Nicky Quaid and Cian Lynch also arrived with strong Limerick hurling pedigree to live up to, only in Hegarty’s case the first real breakthrough came with the Limerick senior football panel, from 2014 to 2017, before he got the full-time call into the hurling panel.

Fast forward a few years, and the now two-time All-Ireland winner and 2020 hurler of the year can look back on that period with great fondness. The attitude and stance of his father however never changed.

“No there was never ever any pressure from him, and absolutely buckets of encouragement. One thing he’s always said to me, whether that be in school or sport, is ‘do your best, and your best will do’. But when you actually think about it, what is your best?

My priority

“How much of your life are you actually willing to devote to get the most out of yourself? In whatever you choose to do. Realistically, hurling is my priority in life, and will be for however long I stay with Limerick, and I’m sure priorities will change then, but if you ask any top person about the sport they’re in, it’s actually the number one priority in their life.

“I was listening to a Stephen Hendry podcast recently, and he said his marriage and his friendships completely suffered because of the focus and the emphasis he put on snooker, and I thought that was quite interesting.

“But there was never any pressure, and I’m still living at home, so there’s still buckets of encouragement. Growing up, and even to this day, I’m a massive golf fan, mad into soccer, gone watching a lot of basketball in the last few months. But hurling and football was what I always focused on.

“I’ve said it before, playing football with Limerick was a great few years for me, because I was never really asked about it [his father] because he never played football for Limerick, so I was creating my own path, which I was doing anyway, but the fact he played hurling with Limerick for so long there was a connection made between me playing and him playing.

“Playing football, I got exposed to top inter-county training, that gave me the platform to kick on, onto the panel in 2016. But the few years playing football was an eye-opener, seeing the dedication, how you need to change your life and lifestyle, if you want to play hurling or football, Division One or Division Four.”

Speaking as an ambassador for hurling championship sponsors Bord Gáis Energy, Hegarty says he also looks to other sports for relevant words of wisdom or encouragement: his Twitter handle reads “If you’re not first, you’re last”, and he’s always on the lookout for other such nuggets

“I listen to a lot of the Performance Podcasts on Spotify, and heard Stephen Gerrard say recently how a massive failure can be the catalyst for actually achieving something massive. I write these down, and like looking back over my journals, I’ve been keeping the last few years, and it’s a nice refresher, if you’re ever feeling down or need some extra motivation.”

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