Rising Star

Gillane: 'If you're playing within your shell, you're not going to get the best out of yourself'

After being dropped from the Limerick panel in 2017, Aaron Gillane has enjoyed a remarkable rise to the top of the game.

2018 WAS THE stuff of dreams for Aaron Gillane.

In his debut season for Limerick he scored 6-94 across league and championship, helping them win promotion back to Division 1A and, more importantly, bridge a 45-year gap without the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Yesterday, Gillane was named PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month Award for August while his first All-Star looms in the coming weeks.

PwC GAA / GPA Player of the Month Launch the PwC All-Star App Aaron Gillane at the launch of the PwC All-Star App Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

But when he’s asked about his most difficult moment of the summer, he references the red card he shipped in the second game of the Munster round-robin campaign against Cork.

Gillane was sent-off for a petulant strike on Sean O’Donoghue right in front of the linesman.  Walking off the field during that first-half in Pairc Ui Chaoimh that day, he was fearful his year was over.

The suspended Gillane was replaced by Shane Dowling for the win over Waterford and the Na Piarsaigh man held his place for the final group game against Clare.

“I thought I was after ending my year and apart from that I was after letting the boys down massively. It was a great result for us to get the draw that day.

“We couldn’t have done it without the work of Seamus (Flanagan) and Graeme (Mulcahy) in the full-forward line. I was kind of disappointed at the end because if we’d lost that match and lost to Clare, I wouldn’t be sitting here today with the Liam MacCarthy. So, thank God, the boys pulled me out of that one.

“Walking off the field, the thing that was going through my head in my head was that I’d worked so hard to actually get onto the team and now I’m after playing myself off the team.

“Luckily after the Clare match – we had a bad day at the office – we went back training and no one was promised their position. Everyone went full at it, hammer and thongs.

“I thought I trained well enough for that two or three weeks and I got my chance against Carlow and took it. Then against Kilkenny, it just kicked on from there.”

As a scoring forward, Gillane received special attention from defenders during the summer but it’s something he’s learned to deal with.

“I wouldn’t have noticed it until after the Cork match because they would have been saying to me, ‘They think that you’re a hothead. They’re going to look for a reaction from you.’

“In the matches coming up to that, yeah, there were people digging me off the ball but, you know, that doesn’t just happen to me, it happens to everyone. All you can do is get on with it, there’s no point crying and whinging over it.”

Aaron Gallagher and Cian Lynch with Jamie Wall after the game Gillane and Cian Lynch with Mary manager Jamie Wall Tom Beary / INPHO Tom Beary / INPHO / INPHO

Gillane readily admits he’s a confidence player. At the beginning of 2017, his resolve was tested when John Kiely dropped him from the Limerick panel ahead of the league. 

He returned to hurl with Mary I for their Fitzgibbon Cup campaign and their manager Jamie Wall helped build him back up. 

“It was him that gave me my chance. It would have been very easy to throw in someone else, especially with all the star-studded names we had.

“He just threw me onto the field and said, ‘Take the shackles off. Don’t be worrying about who’s around you or who’s marking you. There’s no pressure on you. Everyone’s going to be worrying about the big names.’

“I think that definitely benefited me. As well as being a good coach he’s a very good man manager as well. The time and effort he puts into coaching it’s a testament to the things he’s won.”

As the side’s free-taker and main forward, Gillane thrived. He posted 6-47 as Mary I romped to Fitzgibbon glory and a recall to the Limerick squad arrived from Kiely afterwards.

“I was on the panel last year at the start of the year and I got dropped after Christmas. Then I played the Fitzgibbon campaign and I got brought back in after that. I was a bit hit and miss. This was my first full year properly. 

Aaron Gillane celebrates after the game Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Obviously, it was disappointing. it would be disappointing for anyone no matter who it is. But there’s no point sulking and whinging over it. I was very lucky to be able to fall back into that Fitzgibbon team.

“It’s so competitive and I was playing a really good standard of hurling so it was nearly as good as being on the county. What benefited me as well as I didn’t have to juggle the county and Fitzgibbon Cup. I got to focus just on the Fitzgibbon Cup and that definitely worked in my favour I think.

“You want to go and prove a point. I got my chance with Jamie and got a bit of confidence in the Fitzgibbon Cup. My confidence is a big thing and I played that year U21 with a bit of confidence. We won that U21 as well but the players I had around me, it was easy to play with them.

“I’d say everyone is the same. If you’re playing within your shell, you’re not going to get the best out of yourself. You do need that confidence to express yourself on the field. That’s when you’re going to get the best out of yourself.” 

Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the crowd Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the crowd in Limerick TommyDickson / INPHO TommyDickson / INPHO / INPHO

The Patrickswell man didn’t stand-out as an underage hurler and found himself on the Limerick ‘B’ teams coming up underage. But he scored 0-44 as Limerick enjoyed All-Ireland U21 glory 12 months ago and while he didn’t feature for Kiely’s seniors in 2017, it propelled him onto that stage this year. He hasn’t looked back.

“Up along I would have been on the U14s, U15s and U16s ‘B’ teams. I was just there, I wasn’t really enjoying it as much as I’m enjoying it these days. Getting that good run of form in the Fitzgibbon Cup, it certainly gives you a bit of confidence.

“When you’re winning a big competition like that you don’t want to stop. I kept working hard and the same to John (Kiely), he gave me my chance with Limerick this year. I can’t thank him enough for that.

“It all boils down to hard work, if you want to be playing you’ll be playing.”

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