Declan Hannon had tears in his eyes when he was pictured immediately after Limerick’s defeat to Clare in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final.
Just 20, and after missing a string of frees that day which led to his substitution, he felt overwhelmed by disappointment. Embarrassment too.
A couple of nights later, Limerick captain Donal O’Grady called to Hannon’s home and described encountering a player “destroyed” by the experience.
“I’ve only been able to speak about that (lately),” said Hannon, who admitted the entire episode was high on his mind at full-time in August’s All-Ireland final win over Galway.
“The year after, we got back to the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny and I had some fine games but, you know, I still think it wasn’t until we actually won something, until then it (2013) would have been what you’d be remembered for.
“I suppose that was the killing thing, that you didn’t want to play for 10 years and that was going to be it with Limerick, that would be the memory that everyone has of you.
“You are putting in so much effort that you’d hope to be remembered in a different light.”
Hannon says now that he felt in 2013 he’d cost Limerick the All-Ireland. He’d top-scored for them in the Munster championship, powering them to provincial glory, but drilled four wides in that first-half against Clare and was called ashore after 50 minutes.
It didn’t help that he received anonymous mail to his home, slating his performance in the days after.
“It got bad enough, getting messages off random people and letters and things like that,” said Limerick’s All-Ireland-winning captain.
“Sure I thought from listening to it that I was after costing Limerick an All-Ireland and that it was all your fault, like. It was hard.”
Hannon acknowledges that he was perhaps a little paranoid at the time too, though he heard enough whispers to realise when he was the topic of discussion.
“Everywhere I went, they were kind of saying that was the man who had ‘that’ game against Clare,” said the Adare man. “That was the last thing I wanted to be remembered for. At least now I would hope that people will remember me and all the boys in a positive light. I used not want to talk about it but now I am able to move on.”
Caroline Currid, Limerick’s team psychologist, played a key role in rebuilding Hannon’s confidence to the point that he’s now actively on the lookout for others suffering the same crisis of confidence. When he does, he’s ready to dole out encouraging words.
He wishes he could somehow go back in time and talk to his 20-year-old self and offer the same advice.
“I would just talk about it,” he said. “I didn’t talk to anybody about it at the time, didn’t want to see anyone, didn’t even want to go down to the club training because I thought they were talking about it.
“I was just embarrassed. I should have just talked about it.
“You would be (paranoid), yeah, and if you were going to things, like giving out medals at a club function, it’s in the back of your mind. Like, you’re saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I will do it’ but in the back of your mind you will be wondering if they are all thinking about what happened against Clare.
“I’m actually able to advise the younger lads now. I say, ‘If someone says something to you, just talk to me, say it to someone else at least and, you know, it will be fine. It’s not the end of the world’.
“There’s a lot of other things going on in life. Hurling is great, we obviously enjoy it and enjoy the success but we all have jobs and a lot of other things going on as well.
“You can’t let that other stuff affect you because it could easily take away from your enjoyment of life as well.
“Myself, I didn’t want to go out at that time. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Sure that is no way to be living.
“I am just delighted to be able to advise the lads now if I see anything is going wrong with them and I just hope they would know they are able to pick up the phone and I’ll help them out.”
Hannon was at college in Mary I back in 2013, he works in recruitment now for Unijobs and is relieved that life is good, on and off the pitch. Ultimately, he’s happy that he didn’t jack in hurling as he considered after the Clare match.
“I was 20 years of age, I’d been there since 2011 but that year, 2013, we won the Munster final and then all of a sudden it was, ‘This is the year Limerick are going to win the All-Ireland’. Then for it all to come crashing down like it did, made it even tougher. But these things happen and you have to move on, there’s no point throwing in the towel. If I did, I wouldn’t be here today.”