Never mind the victory, never mind his three-point contribution, George Hannigan was simply thankful to have lasted the full 70 minutes in Dungarvan.
It is exactly 12 months since the midfielder played a full game in the Tipperary colours and while it was a particularly long winter for the county’s football set-up given the mass exodus of players from Liam Kearns’ squad, it was an even longer one for Hannigan.
A groin injury during the first-half of last June’s Munster SFC semi-final defeat to Kerry brought an end to his 2015 season, the subsequent rehab process sidelining Hannigan for just over nine months.
Introduced as a second-half sub in Tipperary’s concluding two league games against Kildare and Offaly in late March and early April, his net league involvement amounted to 45 minutes.
Kearns handed him his first start of 2016 for their Munster Championship opener away to Waterford on Sunday and the towering midfielder duly obliged with a man of the match display.
“I got two halves of two league games and while they were good to get, nothing beats championship on good, hard ground. That is where the real test is and it is good to be back,” reflected Hannigan. “I played one and a half championship games last year. I missed a good shot of the qualifiers. I missed the Tyrone game. But it is good to be back. Hopefully, we will go well in the Munster championship. It is good to get a game, especially in that heat and see what level I’m at. I have two weeks to work on it and hopefully get a small bit fitter.”
Cork are next up for Kearns’ outfit and Hannigan admits that the near miss of 2014 still gnaws at him. Ahead by 1-11 to 0-12 with five minutes remaining in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the Premier County were denied a first Munster final berth in 12 years by a rousing finish from Cork’s Aidan Walsh who kicked three consecutive points to edge the home outfit into the provincial decider.
“I was playing that day and it still wrangles with me a small bit. We were up a few points but just didn’t nail the scores at the end. It was the one that got away. Hopefully now with Cork at home... they are a good, strong team, have been away on training camps and will be flying. We are going to have to match them.”
Partnering Hannigan at midfield two summers ago was Steven O’Brien, one of a dozen players from last year’s squad no longer involved.
“Initially, at the start of the year, it was a big blow [losing so many players]. We always knew that Colin [O’Riordan] was on the sights of teams in Australia and the other boys [O’Brien and Seamus Kennedy] were dual players up along so we have always had issues there with lads being good at both. That was November when those decisions were made. It is May now. If you are not prepared as a team for the Championship in that length of time, we are at nothing. It is a dual county and we have to co-operate and work together to compete in both codes.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved