It’s not the worst question Declan Hannon has ever had to mull over: does the Limerick captain think 2022 was the toughest of their four All-Ireland winning campaigns.
The evidence that prompted the question is ample.
Tipperary pushed them for 67 minutes in the Munster round-robin, while the outcome of their games against Waterford (three-point win) and Clare (draw) were in doubt right up until the final whistle. And it only got harder from there. Much, much harder. The Banner brought them to extra-time in that barnstorming Munster final.
After an All-Ireland semi-final second half where they thrice trailed Galway and the gap between the sides was never more than a single point from the 38th to the 73rd minute, it wasn’t until a Diarmaid Byrnes free in the sixth minute of injury-time sent them three clear that Limerick could lift their heads and breathe.
Having led by six early in the second half of the decider, the Treaty were twice pegged back by Kilkenny, the second of which came seven minutes from the end.
So, the toughest?
"Yeah, probably,” replies Hannon.
“With the round-robin being back, absolutely. There's obviously a lot more games and they're so physically and mentally demanding that it's hard to be at the top of your game in all of them. Especially when it's coming down to the last two or three minutes and there's a puck of a ball in it.
“In the All-Ireland final, we went five up in the 70th minute. Kilkenny rattled off three points in the space of a minute and all of a sudden, it's game-on again. They're just relentless. It probably has been the toughest.”
Although Limerick remain unbeaten in championship fare for 16 games and four-plus years, does the sequence of close calls outlined above suggest the chasing pack are closer than they’ve ever been since Kilkenny unexpectedly toppled them in July of 2019.
Where their average winning margin was 7.4 and 7.5 points in 2020 and ‘21, it shrunk to just over four this year.
"I've always said that I think there's very little between any of the teams in the hurling championship. On any given day, anybody can beat anyone. Especially this year, I thought it was very tight,” continued the three-time All-Star centre-back who celebrated his 30th birthday last week.
“Games went down to the last puck of the ball in a lot of cases. That was throughout the Munster Championship and the All-Ireland series, as well.
“I suppose it made it that bit more special that they were so tight and we were put under so much pressure but were able to deal with it and get those victories, no matter how small the margin might be.
"It doesn't matter what way you're winning the All-Ireland, they're all very satisfying. It comes back to the enjoyment of it. We just love going out there, representing Limerick and trying to do the best we can for our friends and families, trying to make them proud and doing the city proud.”