It has been a year of firsts for Gearoid Hegarty — a Limerick hurling debut, a first Munster championship win followed quickly by a provincial medal and now a first All-Ireland final appearance.
Hegarty is a familiar figure in the green and white, but always with the big ball in hand.
The St Patrick’s clubman captained the Limerick U21 footballers this spring, lining out at midfield for the county seniors — his second season with John Brudair’s squad.
Hurling is in the blood, mind you, as his father Ger was centre-back on the Limerick team that contested the 1994 All-Ireland final with Offaly.
Having failed to secure his place on the minor championship panel back in 2012, Hegarty hit out to Rathkeale last December in a bid to impress U21 manager John Kiely.
The calendar was already heavily marked owing to his U21, senior and Sigerson commitments for 2015, but there was an almost stubborn determination to succeed at both codes.
Showing prominently at full-forward, Hegarty was recalled for a challenge game against Sixmilebridge. Selected at half-forward, he made no impression.
The U21 football commitments moved centre-stage in the weeks following and upon his return to the hurling set-up, management pulled a rabbit from the hat. Hegarty was deployed at wing back.
“I don’t know where John Kiely pulled that one out of. I am happy he did because I am loving it at the moment and I don’t know would I make it in the forwards on this team because we have a couple of great lads up there,” says the 21-year old.
“I always wanted to be involved with Limerick U21 hurlers this year, it was a big ambition and in fairness to the management they gave me serious leeway with the football. “I might text John [Kiely] the day before training and say I was after a lot that week and if I could have a night off. I might not have been training at all that week and he might want to see me, but he never said ‘no, you have to come’. I am very grateful for that.”
Failing to secure a single Munster championship win with either the Limerick U21 or senior footballers this year or last, the hurler’s semi-final win over Tipperary back in July brought to an end a long-running losing streak in the province for both Hegarty and the county.
“It is a nice one to keep you going, but to be honest, it was probably the hardest match I have ever played. There is such a difference between the hurling and the football.
“Hurling is a lot faster. You have no break. The ball travels so fast. In the hurling with 10 minutes to go against Tipperary, I was struggling. I was looking towards the line.
“That win was massive for confidence. It was my first championship game with Limerick. It was my first Munster championship win. It was just brilliant to be involved in a team who had some success.
“I thought I was never going to get a bit of success over the last year or two. We were beaten in the county football final last year too. I have been close, but I have never really grasped success.
“While it was great to play Sigerson and to play with Limerick seniors and to captain the U21 team, when it comes down to it in 10-years’ time, I will remember that Munster U21 final in Clare.
“And if we win the All Ireland final it will be something I will never forget.”
His father, Ger, was midfield on the first Limerick team to lift the Cross of Cashel trophy back in 1987, but the medal hasn’t been pulled from the cupboard this week. Gearoid dispensed with it quite some time ago.
“My mother tells me that when I was two or three-years old, I fired every single medal he ever won out the window and they were never seen again. It was out the top window of the house back in Rhebogue. They are long gone.
“He calls them dust collectors anyway so he doesn’t really mind. He has definitely been the biggest influence on my sporting career, hurling and football. He has been there and done it all.”
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