All-Ireland win exorcised 2013 demons for Hannon
By John Harrington
Limerick’s All-Ireland victory this year was a redemptive one for team captain Declan Hannon who had been haunted for years by his performance in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Clare.
On that day five years ago he missed three frees and one ’65 in the first half. He was taken off the frees in the second-half and substituted after 51 minutes.
It was only when he lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup this year that he felt like he’d finally exorcised the demons of that 2013 All-Ireland semi-final.
“It was tough, like,” said Hannon. “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 because 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.”
Hannon was hailed as a potential great in the making from a very young age and made an instant impact as a teenager when he was first called up to the Limerick senior panel.
But his confidence seemed to suffer in the aftermath of that 2013 free-taking meltdown against Clare, and he found some of the stinging criticism he received hard to take at times.
“It's been tough at times, definitely,” he said. “I was just 18 when I first went in and it was grand for a few years and then there was a few dull years and they're tough going because it's not for the lack of trying or anything like that.
“Looking back, it was the same amount of training going on and the same effort but it just wasn't working on the field for us. It's hard, like.
“You're getting abused left, right, and centre and that made this year all the sweeter I suppose when you've gone through the tough times.
“I'm only 25 but I've seen a lot in the career I've been on whereas a lot of the other lads are 19, 20, 21 and have been so successful with Limerick minor teams and U-21 teams that they probably haven't experienced it yet.
“But they brought in massive confidence to us and definitely aided us this year. It's been an interesting career for me, I suppose, but the goal was always to win an All-Ireland so just delighted to have achieved that.
“And obviously the next step now is to try to do it again. It's onwards and upwards for Limerick for the next couple of years, hopefully.”
The Limerick captain led by example this year, producing some storming displays from centre-back to drive his team forward time and again.
He’s still a young man, but he’s highly experienced now and the maturity he’s gained along the way has helped make him a lot tougher mentally.
“When I was 20 years of age in 2013 I probably thought differently about games than I would now,” he said.
“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.
“So 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.”
Hannon certainly made a big contribution in the All-Ireland Final, shooting two spectacular first-half points from centre-back and spraying some quality passes to his forwards throughout the game.
Despite their dominance for most of the match, Limerick were left hanging on by the finger-nails when Galway hit two injury-time goals.
And when Joe Canning had a last gasp chance to send the game to a replay with a long-range free, Hannon made a plea for some divine intervention.
“It was getting a bit hairy towards the end of it, there,” he said. “I remember Joe Canning's last free and I was just standing under the crossbar and I was saying a prayer to my Grandfather.
“There was much more we could do at that stage. We had done everything we possibly could to have won the match.
“I think it would have been unjust if Galway got a result from the game because for 70 minutes we were in control and six or seven points a better team.
“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.”
He’s determined now that Limerick’s long awaited All-Ireland title won’t be a solitary achievement.
Such is the depth of hurling talent in Limerick at the moment, he’s convinced they can win more major silverware in the coming years.
“There is massive competition for places and lads are chomping at the bit to get onto the panel, then trying to get onto the team,” said Hannon.
“There was huge disappointment from guys on the extended panel for games throughout the year, and it changed because they were performing and they wanted to be on the panel, and lads that are performing want to get on the team, and when you see the impact that they make when they come on to the field, it gives everyone a lift because you know they're ready to perform because we see them doing it at training week in, week out.
“That's definitely a positive that we have built a panel over the last few years and such a young panel, it should be, if we perform the way we did this year we should be close enough and competing for honours again next year.”