By Daragh Ó Conchúir
It tells you something about the calibre of individual Hannah Hegarty is that she was captain of both Dublin’s Minor Camogie and ladies football teams in 2015.
The demands would have meant that she could not make every session for each panel. That would irritate her, as someone who believes in total dedication. Such were her leadership credentials that her managers wanted her to be their skipper despite the occasional absence.
“I’m just confident being a voice on the team, even if I wasn’t captain” says Hegarty. “I suppose both managers saw that quality and approached me about it. I was happy to do both. At Minor you’re just below that age where you start overthinking everything so I suppose I didn’t look too much into it at the time.”
She would welcome the opportunity to at least try being a dual player at Senior level, if it were to present itself again. We say again because she did decline an invitation to join the football panel once before.
After taking a year out from intercounty duty to concentrate on her Leaving Cert in 2016, she was approached by incoming football boss Mick Bohan. She wanted to confine herself to one code in her first year at the highest level however and David Herity had gotten there first.
The St. Jude’s star made it clear that she wasn’t closing the door on football and cannot state a preference between the codes. Turning 21 in November, she reckons she would be up for the challenge now.
“You see the likes of Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley and Hannah Looney down in Cork, Orla O’Dwyer from Tipp played two matches on the same day Saturday. A lot of it comes down to the management of the two codes. If they’re willing to work together it’s definitely possible if you really want to do it.
"I think if I learn how to drive it might be a bit more feasible! I wouldn’t take it off the horizon. I’d love to give the football a go and if I could do the both, I would. I don’t think there’s been a county dual player in Dublin for a long time so that might be nice.”
The DCU student flourished in her maiden Senior term, ending 2017 with an All-Star nomination and as Dublin’s Young Player of the Year. The Dubs reached the Semi-Final of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship for the first time since 1992. It was glorious and what she had been impatient for.
“Dublin had been going through a bad patch of getting beaten by a good bit and then we went into the League and we were only losing most of the games by a couple of points – less than double figures.
“But there was a contrast of me and the girls who had just come up that year, we were really angry to be losing games, and the girls who had been there for the past were happier that they weren’t being absolutely hammered. It was a different experience.”
They found common ground and helped each other out. The younger crew grew to understand that progress was being made, the more established members of the squad learned to raise their expectations. They began to expect more from themselves and one another.
“If you saw someone who wasn’t giving as much an effort as you knew they could, you’d kind of get in their face a little bit, demand more from them. They might have fallen into a habit of going a certain pace. Now things were going a little quicker, you just had to get on people’s cases – no more than people getting on my case as well, coming from a year of not being in a county set-up getting into a Senior squad.
The expectation was that they would build on last year’s feats and target another level of achievement. But they lost seven or eight of the panel, the majority including the likes of All-Star full-forward Aisling Maher and ace defender Eva Marie Elliott to the travelling bug. Claire Donnelly got married while Sarah O’Donovan retired.
“Coming off the back of Dublin’s best season in such a long time, you really wanted to be able to build on that. When you heard of the turnover of players, it was a little bit of a blow. Initially when you hear it, it’s hard not to be a small bit surprised by the decision.
“But at the same time you have to look outside of sport and girls are going to want to do stuff with their lives. Thinking down the line, you couldn’t hold anything against anyone because I might make the same decision or one of my good friends might make the same decision
“But looking into the season, it’s not that we’re starting from scratch again, because of course we have the same management set-up and a core group of girls were the same, and the girls that came in were fantastic as well, but we were starting from a different position than we thought we might have been. But we were still very positive.
“Sody (O’Donovan) would be a big loss of character from the team. She brought a lot. I had a lot of time for her. She’d still go to a lot of the games and you can still hear her voice on the sideline.
“On the other side, it’s been excellent to have Lauren (Twomey) back on the pitch, especially as I play on the same line as her on the half-back line. She has so much experience and is a very good leader on the pitch. She did the dreaded ACL just after being named co-captain with Eve O’Brien last year and missed the whole season so it’s great to have her back.”
Dublin are moving in the right direction again and are certain to reach the Championship’s knockout stages once more if they get at least a draw with Tipperary at Parnell Park tomorrow (2.30pm). Only a surprise defeat of All-Ireland champions Cork by Offaly will deny them even if they lose but they do not want to leave anything to chance.
“If we beat Tipperary we know we’re definitely through. If we lose we’re relying on other teams and that’s not how you want to play Championship. You want to determine your own path so a win would be very important for us.”