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'It was tough. It took a long time. It's only now I can move on'

Lifting the All-Ireland title helped Limerick captain Declan Hannon finally lay the ghosts of 2013 to rest.

THE MAJORITY  OF Limerick players can vividly recall their position and thought process as Joe Canning stepped over his injury-time free in the All-Ireland final.

Joe Canning drops a late free into the square Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was a defining moment in the game as Canning’s attempt at an equaliser dropped into the paw of defender Tom Condon in the square. Seconds later, the final whistle crowned Limerick All-Ireland champions and mayhem ensued.

Aaron Gillane and Kyle Hayes were both close to Canning as he struck the shot from inside his own half. 

“When Joe was taking the free I was the person standing in front of him,” said Gillane recently. “When Condon ran out with the ball I just fell down to the ground. I didn’t know what to do or where to look.”

“I was trying to put him off, I was standing in front of him,” Hayes recalled. “It was the longest ball ever in history, I’d say. It wouldn’t drop quick enough.”

Treaty skipper Declan Hannon was near Condon on his own goal line. He took a different approach. 

“Jesus, you can remember it alright,” said Hannon at the GAA Super Games Centre National Blitz Day in partnership with Sky Sports.

rrere Declan Hannon was at the GAA Super Games Centre National Blitz Day in partnership with Sky Sports

“It was getting a bit hairy towards the end of it, there. I remember Joe Canning’s last free and I was just standing under the crossbar and I was saying a prayer to my grandfather.

“I’d say there was a lot of people praying when Joe was standing over that free I’d say I wasn’t the only one, I don’t know but honest to God that’s what I was doing. 

“There was much more we could do at that stage. We had done everything we possibly could to have won the match. But, a point to win an All-Ireland or a hundred points, we still got the cup at the end of the day. Yeah, a few panicky moments towards the end, but we got there.” 

For Hannon, it was a redemption of sorts. He made his senior debut with Limerick as an 18-year-old while still in his Leaving Cert, but two years later came his biggest setback. Limerick looked on the verge of greatness in 2013 when they lifted a shock Munster title, but were beaten by neighbours Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Declan Hannon dejected Hannon after the 2013 semi-final defeat to Clare Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Hannon had a nightmare game on the frees for Limerick, missing four placed balls in the opening half. He was replaced as free-taker in the second period and withdrawn in the 52nd minute. The Banner went on to lift the Liam MacCarthy and a golden chance went a-begging for Limerick. 

It took him a long time to get over that day. 

“I don’t know, when I was 20 years of age in 2013 I probably thought differently about games than I would now.  Then I thought I had to go out on the field and score 10, 11, 12 points a match. You kind of put pressure on yourself. No-one else was putting pressure on me. 

“It was just myself saying you have to do this and you have to do that. And then when it doesn’t work and you score two or three points you still feel bad. 

“Probably until I was actually involved with winning an All-Ireland with Limerick I wouldn’t ever have gotten over that.  It was tough. I kind of got a fair bit of flak after that for a few months and you were nearly embarrassed to go places and see people. You’d just be disappointed because you’d feel like you let the whole county down. 

“I suppose in 2013 Limerick were on such a high after winning the Munster Final and the place was kind of gone mad becuase this was the year we were meant to win the All-Ireland. And then for it all to come crashing down the way it did was hard to take as well. It took a long time, now. 

“To be honest, in my mind, until I actually contributed positively to Limerick winning an All-Ireland…I didn’t want to be remembered for the Clare match in 2013. Thankfully we won the All-Ireland this year and it’s only now I can move on from that. 

Declan Hannon lifts the Liam MacCarthy Hannon lifts the Liam MacCarthy Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I suppose my mentality changed completely after that. I didn’t put as much pressure on myself and I said, ‘Look, if I can do the job that I’m meant to do then that’s good enough.  If I’m contributing positively the way the management want me to then that’s fine, I don’t need to be going out playing centre-back and trying to score 10 points, like. 

“Because at the end of the day that will lead to you not contributing the way you want to.”

The Adare man became the third member of his family to captain his county to All-Ireland hurling glory, after his granduncle Pat Stakelum and another relative Bobby Ryan captained Tipperary to the title in 1949 and 1989 respectively.

“Bobby Ryan also captained Tipp to success from centre-back, and my granduncle Pat Stakelum was centre-back as well with the Tipp team. Bobby Ryan is my mother’s cousin.

“It’s nice, but it’s nice to have it in Limerick and not Tipp, it’s grand Tipp have plenty of trophies and they remind us about it enough times the cousins. It was nice to have them come over the border to celebrate with us this year.” 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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