Once Limerick’s All-Ireland celebrations had tapered off, Gearóid Hegarty found himself with itchy feet.
The half-forward doesn’t fall into the category of those who believe the inter-county season is too long and couldn’t wait to get going at Wexford Park so as to bridge the 162-day gap to Limerick’s closing fixture of their 2018 campaign.
A leader in the tackle count on Sunday, it was somewhat fitting that Hegarty should deliver their first point from play of the second half, arriving as late as it did in the first minute of injury-time, to ease the pressure on a Limerick team running low on fuel.
The three-point victory over Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford was Limerick’s fifth competitive win on the bounce and their first top-flight league win since 2009. But above all that, Hegarty was simply glad to be back in action.
“I’m delighted the new season is up and running. By the time August and September were done last year, and when October and November came around, you were sitting at home thinking when are we going to get back into it?” said the 24-year-old.
“A lot of people give out that the inter-county season is too long and what not and how the players are burnt out. Nobody is forcing anybody to come out and train a couple of nights a week and play matches at the weekend. It is what we love and what we want to do.”
With the threat of relegation from Division 1A off the table this spring as a result of the restructuring coming on stream in 2020, there has been plenty of talk of this being a softer league than recent editions. That doesn’t wash with Hegarty or a Limerick team determined to make their mark after being mired in the second tier for eight seasons.
“People were crying out for Division 1A hurling in Limerick for the last number of years. No matter what sport you are playing in, you want to be competing in the top division. Being in Division 1A is the best way to prepare for the championship, which is the overall goal.
“The first hurdle is overcome and with Tipperary having a good win on Saturday, I’d say there’ll be a big crowd for the Tipperary game in the Gaelic Grounds this Saturday.”
With subs Darragh O’Donovan and Barry Murphy supplying crucial injury-time points at Wexford Park, the strength of the Limerick bench was again on full display. Despite starting all eight of Limerick’s championship games last year, Hegarty gives off the impression that no first-team regular is safe of their spot.
“We have a serious, serious panel. There is some amount of talent in the squad, even among those not in the 26 and those coming back from injury. There are lads on the sideline champing at the bit to get in, lads who did get their chance showed very well. You have to be kept on your toes. That is the way we want it and that is the way it is.
“We could easily be going out of Wexford Park with just one point or no points. It is a great start to the year, it is important to keep the winning momentum going.”