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'In '07 I was a boy, we were no-hopers, I learned a lot that day' -- Limerick's Seamus Hickey

He may have been officially educated in Clare, but the Treaty forward is shaped by Croke Park.

LIMERICK, SEAMUS HICKEY says, is a city and a county with a sport problem. They just can’t get enough of the stuff.

A provincial rugby team, the Airtricity League, high performance swimming and two codes of Gaelic Games all stand side by side by the Shannon.

“People will watch a ball roll down a street if there were two people chasing it, if it’s a competition,” he says.

At this moment in time, however, there is only one show in town. Hurling.

Success in the Munster final was greeted with unbridled joy, and so it should be. The Limerick faithful know only too well that that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day.

Indeed, they have had to deal with false dawns. Big build-ups of expectation which vanished with the next tide.

Hickey, with his conversion from raw full-back to powerful half forward complete, still squirms in his seat when he pictures his first really big day out in Croke Park, the 2007 All Ireland final. He was dealt a big-time direct opponent to match.

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“I was clapping him on the Sunday Game,” he says with a wince about Eddie Brennan’s man-of-the-match display.”But it was an education in hurling that day.

“It’s stupid, I wouldn’t go OTT on it, but I was a boy that day, I really was, playing with real men.

“So I learned an awful lot – you have to take it as a learning – it didn’t finish me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

This weekend Croke Park will hold no great surprises. While Clare may posses the inexperience Hickey feels is now behind him, the mechanical engineering PHD student is well aware that the Banner have the tools go all the way. And, having spent many of his formative years across the river, he may have a unique insight into the Clare psyche.

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As a boarder in St Flannan’s College in Ennis he went to schools All Ireland finals with Colin Ryan and John Conlon. “He hasn’t changed a bit,” Hickey says of Ryan. “His free-taking was phenomenal then.”

Though he now counts himself a veteran of two senior All Ireland semi-finals, Clare will present a new challenge for him and the Treaty County. In ’07 and ’09 they were extreme underdogs. Now, there is real expectation.

“In 2007 we were no-hopers, we were going up to Dublin to lose to a Waterford team that were going to win their All-Ireland that everyone wanted them to win,” he says before admitting, “to be fair: that year, if they won it, I wouldn’t have begrudged them.”

“I learned a lot from that day. I learned what Limerick is capable of when we get it together.

“But I also learned that you have to be measured in your goals, measured in how you approach things because of the hype and euphoria that went around what we did. Repeating it was tough, going into the All-Ireland.”

The advent of mandatory helmets mean that hurling superstars now can enjoy (or rue, depending on your outlook) a diminished public profile. Hurling may be the only show in town these days, but Hickey is more than happy to melt back into the crowd once battle is done.

Hickey with Cork camogie star Anna Geary (©Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE)

“I’m fairly anonymous. I go about my business and no one knows who I am. It warms the heart when people come up to you out of the blue and congratulate you and say “well done, push on”. And they really mean it. I said around the time of the Munster final, I knew how much it meant to me and the lads in the dressing room but I didn’t fully comprehend what it meant to the people of Limerick until afterwards.

“You have to feel privileged to be part of that. So when someone says that to you, you have to says thanks and move on with that. There’s no point in shutting it out and being ungrateful. You have to appreciate the here and now.”

Almost anonymous, yet just two steps from immortality:  ”You have to stop and smell the roses sometimes.”

Seamus Hickey was speaking at the announcement of a new GAA Club Offer from Liberty Insurance, proud partner of Hurling and Camogie, which has the potential to net huge returns for GAA & Camogie clubs.  Anyone who takes out a new motor or home insurance policy with Liberty Insurance before October 13th 2013 can nominate their local GAA club to receive €50 from Liberty Insurance. In addition, anyone who gets a quote will be in with a chance of winning €10,000 for their local club.

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