Redemption, relief, and joy for Limerick captain Declan Hannon

His acceptance speech was all about the collective but finding time to reflect under the Hogan Stand Declan Hannon could speak about his own redemption.

Five years ago, the Adare man, then a forward and on free-taking duties, struck three frees and a 65 wide in the first half of an All-Ireland semi-final.

Shane Dowling took over the responsibilities and performed impressively but Clare went onto win the game.

Afterwards, Hannon was inconsolable.

Yesterday, his commanding show in the first half gave Limerick the platform that had been Galway’s for so many of their successes this year. 

“I probably had my worst experience ever in Croke Park in 2013 and it took a while to get over that. These hardships build you as a person as well. The easy thing to do would be to say ‘I’ll leave it. I don’t want this anymore but the boys are so grounded and everyone just dug in and kept going’.

“It’s so worth it.”

The final whistle was a moment of bliss.

“It was unreal. I ran into Dan Morrissey, who nearly knocked me over, the size of him. It’s an unbelievable feeling. You couldn’t buy it. A dream come true. Anyone who has played sport has walked around their back garden marching behind the band since they were four or five years of age pretending they were in Croke Park. For it to come true is a nice feeling.”

The 25-year-old never sensed Galway were going to repeat what they did to Clare in the semi-final and finish out on a high to claim the victory. 

“Not really. All I thought of was to win the next ball. You saw against Kilkenny when Tom Morrissey caught a puckout when they got a goal… it was just going to happen. One of the boys was going to win a free or something, it was happening all year and it worked again today.”

In his speech, Hannon was quick to acknowledge those players who had stepped away recently and the teams of the past. The likes of his own clubman Wayne McNamara and Kilmallock pair Gavin O’Mahony and Paudie O’Brien and Garryspillane’s James Ryan would come to mind.

“Those guys are unbelievable ambassadors for Limerick. They have taught me so much in terms of how to conduct yourself on the field, off the field. Particularly off the field because there’s a lot of media etc. It’s hard for them today if they stepped away last year or the last couple of years but those guys will be over the moon as well.

“There are a lot of Limerick teams who have been there or thereabouts. They’ve obviously put in a massive effort throughout the years and they did inspire us when we were growing up. We all looked up to the Conor Fitzgeralds and Mark Foleys of this world. They paved the path for us and we wanted to follow it.

As regards the pre-final hype, Hannon said he didn’t feel much of it as much as his father had been giddy around him when they met on Friday. 

“Limerick supporters are unbelievable and they have been year in, year out. The last few years haven’t gone to plan for us, they still come out in their droves. It is hard when you are not winning. It is hard being a supporter and I’ve been a supporter myself going to matches when it is not working for the team, but they keep coming out. I’m delighted for them as well.”

Asked about turning points during the year, Hannon remarked: “I suppose the Galway game above in Salthill in the league, the first round against Tipperary set us up in the Munster round robin. You know yourselves how tough it is to get out of Munster so it put us in a good position. I suppose the Cork game and you could probably look at all the games.”

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