Aaron Gillane focused on Cork challenge
By Michael Devlin
In the 26th minute of the Allianz League Hurling Final last month, Limerick’s Tom Morrissey fizzed a low ball from his own 45’ towards the Waterford square, where a preying Aaron Gillane had snuck in behind Noel Connors and found a little pocket of space.
Suddenly, with one deft flick of the Patrickswell man’s hurl, the sliotar flashed by Stephen O’Keeffe and nestled in the net. Gillane wheeled away with a clinched fist raised in celebration.
It was a goal that required explanation to everyone in Croke Park and watching on from beyond. Everyone bar Gillane, who seemingly made it look like a preordained moment of genius. The movement echoed Jimmy-Barry Murphy’s great goal against Galway in 1983, a goal that late great Michael O’Hehir declared that a slow motion replay couldn’t even slow down.
“I've seen a few clips of his goal across Twitter alright but I'd say his one just pips mine now,” humbly admits Gillane.
“I still don't know what I was doing to be honest. I barely flicked it, it was just pure luck I'd say. Sure you're not going to know if you can do these things unless you try it and no better place to try it than in Croke Park.”
The audacity of the goal is a perfect example of the bristling confidence that this Limerick team are playing with at the minute. The Liam MacCarthy Cup and Allianz League Division One trophy now both resting in their cabinet, a Munster medal still eludes many members of a youthful Treaty County side, with a minority of which surviving from their last senior provincial success in 2013.
“That team was six years ago now and we're looking to drive on,” said Gillane, speaking at the launch of the 2019 John West Féile in Croke Park.
“We can't even afford to look past our first match on May 19th against Cork, and if we do that we haven't a hope of winning a Munster. Obviously, it would be great to win a Munster, but our focus is firmly on beating Cork at the moment.
“[The League] is good to give us a bit of confidence, but at the end of the day it's the league. Sure what good is it if you get knocked out of Munster?
“There's always a few surprises. There's always teams in Munster that will surprise people and could go all the way to the All-Ireland final, and some teams people will tip to get out of Munster are going to get knocked out.”
While John Kiely delved deep into his considerable talent pool and utilised more than 30 players during Limerick’s successful league campaign, it was never a case of using the competition as a mere testing ground for players on the fringes of the panel.
The League was another trophy there to be won according to Gillane, and though the silverware was never explicitly set out as a target, Limerick’s plan was always based around developing that winning mentality built up over the past 12 months.
“Yeah I said it there a while ago, I don't see why any team would enter into a competition if you're not going all out to win it, but we didn't sit down at the start of the year and say we have to win the league, we have to do this. We took every match as it came.
“We just progressed through the League winning all our matches and we got to the final, finals are for winning and winning is a habit so we said we might as well go for it now and take it.”
What is clear from watching Limerick in 2019 is that last year’s All-Ireland success has fostered no false illusions of grandeur or complacent tendancies. There is an assured pragmatism within the group, an ability to cast aside past hang-ups and dismiss the burdens of decades-long droughts for national success.
“I suppose that's just testament to the management team that we have, they didn't let nothing get to their head,” said Gillane. “If we went away and thought we were brilliant after winning one All-Ireland, we could be waiting another 45 years to win something again so hopefully that isn't the case now, we stay grounded and we're obviously hungry to win more again.
“There's always a lot of talk about teams in the past. Coming up to the All-Ireland Final and League Final, everyone kept saying Limerick hadn't won an All-Ireland, hadn't been in an All-Ireland Final since 2007, hadn't won a league in 22 years.
“I just keep saying, 'I've no interest in Limerick teams that have gone before us'. We've our own team and we're just looking to create our own history’.”
That history is being made. Like Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s piece of magic in 1983, the brilliance of Gillane and his Limerick teammates will be shining through for decades to come.