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'He was an incredible man' - Hegarty dedicates Hurler of the Year award to late Limerick physio

He also admits he was disappointed with his own display in the 2018 final after struggling to deal with the media spotlight.

Hurler of the Year Gearoid Hegarty.
Hurler of the Year Gearoid Hegarty.
Image: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

THE DAY BEFORE he was named Hurler of the Year, Gearoid Hegarty and his Limerick team-mates formed a guard of honour for their late physio Mark van Drumpt, who died after a long battle with cancer.

“I got much more emotional than I thought I would,” admits Hegarty. “It just shows you how much he touched us all.”

During RTÉ’s All-Stars broadcast on Saturday night, the Limerick half-forward dedicated his award to van Drumpt.

Speaking now, Hegarty recalls how the physio helped him during his own U21 days.

“He was an incredible man. He was battling cancer. Mark has been physio for 13 years with Limerick. He spent five years with the footballers, and then eight years with us. He was involved with us in the U21s and that’s where I got to know him.

“I got a real bad injury in the Munster final in U21. We were playing Clare in Ennis and they were going for four-in-a-row and I got a real bad injury in my ankle.

“The specialist that I went to see in Santry was mad for me to get surgery in the few days after the game. There was three weeks between every game at U21, I always remember. It was a couple of days after the Munster final. We beat Clare and the specialist was mad for me [to have an operation. It was, 'surgery, surgery, surgery.'

"Mark van Drumpt couldn't enforce it more that he didn't believe that I needed surgery. He was going against the specialist opinion that I didn't need surgery.

"He said, "If you need surgery by the end of the year by all means you can go for surgery but I don't think you should go for surgery now. Try rehab it as best you can and see what happens over the next couple of days and weeks.'

"We were playing Galway in the All-Ireland semi final and he did an unbelievable job to get me back for that game. He looked after me so well and it's always something that I remembered.

"And that was probably my best game in the U21 that year. He was proven correct in his opinion. He went over and above what he needed to do for me in that moment and he always did that from then on. 

"He's been fighting a savage battle with loads of ups and downs. He was told eight years ago that he had max two years to live. He was such a battler, an incredible person and full of craic.

"Always someone you could go have a bit of craic with before training - getting strapped or rubbed or whatever. He's with lads dealing with injuries at their worst times and he was always such a great guy do be dealing with. Unfortunately he took a bad turn in the last six months or so.

"Even the lead up to the All-Ireland final he was with us on the Friday night. He was with us at every training session. As somebody said other people with his sickness wouldn't have been able to get out of bed and he was still coming to training with us.

"It was sad to see the deterioration. Sadly cancer took over in the last couple of months and it was quite sad. Obviously it was extremely sad that he passed, but it was nice to go to his funeral in difficult circumstances and give him a great send off yesterday.

"A young man leaving a young family behind - life is cruel but what can you do?"

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"Leonie [his wife] told me he was quite sick in 2018 as well and she asked him what was the one thing he wanted to see before he died. Because they always expected that it was coming.

“As I said he was told eight years that he had not long to live. He always said he just wanted to see Limerick win an All-Ireland.

“He got to see two really. It’s never a nice time to go but I suppose he did go just after we won a second one for him.”

gearoid-hegarty-and-will-odonoghue-celebrate-as-limerick-are-all-ireland-hurling-champions Gearoid Hegarty and Will O'Donoghue celebrate as the final whistle sounded in the All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Hegarty admitted that “people telling you that you weren’t good enough” was a massive motivator for him during his career. The night the hurling All-Stars were announced, his sister’s boyfriend showed him a message from a Limerick GAA internet forum in 2016 that read:

‘There’s no way Gearoid Hegarty should be on the panel. He’s too slow. His hurling isn’t good enough.’

After also picking up an All-Star, Hegarty said 2020 was even more special because of his own individual performance in the final. The St Patrick’s man was unhappy with his display in the 2018 win over Galway.

“I woke up the next morning with mixed emotions, in all honesty,” he said. “I was incredibly delighted [that we'd won]. The team is the most important thing 100 times over

“I was extremely proud that we had finally won the All-Ireland but I was disappointed with my own performance. I didn’t play as well as I would have liked, and I was taken off.

“This year, it was brilliant to be on the field when we won the All-Ireland. I know that sounds stupid but I wasn’t on the field in 2018. It was really nice to be on the field in 2020.

“In 2018, that’s probably a mistake I made leading into the All-Ireland final. I was after having a really top class quarter-final and semi-final, and I suppose I was going into the final with all guns blazing.

“There was probably a bit of attention on me going into that game. I probably read a bit too much into it. It’s pretty much impossible nowadays not to see it, unless you go into a dark room and don’t go on social media. 

“The thing I did this year was just processed it a bit more, just talked about it. I used Caroline a lot more in 2020 than I would have before. I sat down with her, gave her a phone call before the games, and just talked about what’s important.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Kevin O'Brien

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