Arriving onto Jones Road for their All-Ireland semi-final with Cork, Declan Hannon was one of only three men on Limerick’s starting team to have previously played a senior championship game at Croke Park.
However, the team’s frightening lack of experience at GAA Headquarters wasn’t a cause of concern for the Treaty captain.
Hannon had been at full-forward for the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Clare, left half-forward 12 months later when Kilkenny pipped them in a thriller. Nickie Quaid was between the posts on both occasions, as was Graeme Mulcahy in the left corner.
How Hannon felt heading into the game against Cork was in total contrast to four and five years ago, even if the latter sides had been around the block far longer than is the case with the current crop of youngsters.
That none of the panel, Seamus Hickey aside, have been involved on the concluding day of the hurling championship is also not a concern.
The 2013 Munster final was a breakthrough, but after that, we let ourselves down in the All-Ireland semi-final. Looking back, I don’t think we were ready. In 2014, either, I don’t think we were ready for the All-Ireland semi-final,” Hannon admitted.
“This year is just a bit different. Everyone is really, really tuned in and knows their jobs. We are just a slightly different animal this year and we are more ready than previous years.”
Hannon spent the first six years of his Limerick career in attack, where his accuracy yielded 1-40 from play before John Kiely moved him to centre-back ahead of the 2017 campaign.
The Adare man is no stranger to the number six shirt having operated from that posting when captaining Ard Scoil Rís to Harty Cup glory in 2011.
Equally, he’s well versed in delivering acceptance speeches. He was the on-field general when Mary Immaculate College Limerick landed a historic first Fitzgibbon Cup crown in February of 2016, no more than when Ard Scoil Rís captured the Dean Ryan Cup for the first time in 2009.
Has he allowed the mind to wander and how it might feel to be the first Limerick man in 45 years to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand, to join Dinny Grimes (1897), Wille Hough (1918), Bob McConkey (1921), Timmy Ryan (1934), Mick Mackey (1936 & ’40) and Eamonn Grimes (1973) in that small group of All-Ireland winning Limerick captains.
“My mind has wandered like that since I was four years of age and dreamt of it happening, but dreams are different to reality. We have a massive job ahead of us before we have to worry about that. It is where every inter-county player wants to be. We have put ourselves in the position to give us that opportunity. If we bring a performance, we will be close enough to it.
I have thought about [a speech]. You have to get these things out of the way and tick a few boxes. The last thing I want to be doing is to be trying to think of who to thank on the day of the match, but my focus will be on training and on being ready for the 19th of August.
“It’s nice to be involved this time of year. I went to last year’s All-Ireland final. Other than that, I hadn’t been to one in a few years. Sometimes, it’s hard to watch them. In 2013 and 2014, they were hard to watch because we had been in All-Ireland semi-finals and you don’t want to be there unless you are playing.”
Working in the recruitment sector for Limerick-based UniJobs, the 25-year old is content to keep his plate full in the run-up to the decider.
He strongly considered travelling the teaching route, as is the norm with most inter-county players these days, but the lack of routine during the months of June, July and August quickly made up his mind.
“I would go mad during the summer. I wouldn’t be able to pass away the day too easily. I prefer to be going in to work Monday to Friday. I did it for all the summers I was in college. At the moment, I wouldn’t know what’s going on [in the county] outside of work and training.”
The latter, one can only assume, is pretty competitive. We’ve been looking at Limerick’s A team all summer, but the Bs can’t be too shabby, not with Seamus Hickey, Richie McCarthy and Tom Condon in defence, Will O’Donoghue and Colin Ryan going head-to-head with Lynch and O’Donovan at midfield and then a forward unit spearheaded by Shane Dowling, Peter Casey, Pat Ryan and Barry Nash.
“Even short-sided games in training would be fairly intense. I don’t think we have played too many challenge games against opposition counties. We played Wexford but other than that I think they have all been in-house. It has served us well.”