Barry Heffernan delivered for Tipperary
By Cian O'Connell
For Barry Heffernan 2019 was a tale of patience and perseverance.
That the inter-county journey with Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary culminated in All Ireland glory with two standout Croke Park displays simply added to the sense of satisfaction.
Following a splendid display in an important Munster Championship triumph over Clare at Cusack Park, Heffernan had to wait for another blue and gold start.
The chance eventually came in a gripping semi-final success over Wexford enabling Heffernan to start the decider against Kilkenny.
“If someone told me last year that the year was going to end like this I would have told you you're mad,” Heffernan says reflecting on a daring and dramatic stint.
“It was a great year and a dream come true, so just an unbelievable year.”
So what changed for Heffernan during the campaign? “Lads were just flying it playing,” Heffernan replies.
“They had a really strong round robin in the Munster Championship and I suppose the Munster final didn't go to plan and Liam probably had to reshuffle the pack a bit.
“Then I was lucky enough to get a start in the Wexford game and that went okay. Thankfully the All-Ireland final went okay as well.”
Heffernan stresses the manner in which Sheedy kept Heffernan confident even when not included in the team. “Liam was very supportive all year,” Heffernan admits.
“He just kept saying, 'Stay going and stay being patient, everybody will be needed throughout this championship.'
“A person of Liam's experience you have to listen to him and that's what I did. A week before the Wexford game he said, 'I'm thinking about playing you next week.' Then I was lucky enough to get the nod and it went okay after that.”
Heffernan was well aware of the talk suggesting he needed to demonstrate increased physicality to truly deliver on the grand stage.
“Oh yeah, definitely, it probably would have been one of my biggest flaws,” Heffernan says. “I was aware of that as well that I was probably a bit pure in hurling and it was something that I had to improve on if I wanted to play for Tipperary.”
Ultimately it meant the afternoon spent in John Conlon’s company supplied belief and conviction that Heffernan could operate for Tipperary.
“To mark someone like John Conlon and to hold him for that long, it was a great achievement,” Heffernan acknowledges. “I think Paudie Maher was very close to me the whole day so it was great having him in front of me.”
Since the Liam MacCarthy Cup was hoisted Heffernan endured another harrowing loss in the sky blue and navy of Eire Og, who lost a Tipperary SHC Semi-Final against Kiladangan.
“It has been very frustrating, but you have very good players in Nenagh at the moment,” Heffernan states.
“You have a very good core as regards age group, apart from a few lads, I think you have 10 lads under 24. It is just very important that everyone stays together and stays going.”
Citing the delightful Michael Cleary and John Heffernan as key influences on his budding career, Heffernan remains hopeful that Eire Og can build on the promise shown in the underage ranks during the past decade.
“It is a great club in Nenagh, but it is just important that lads kick on after minor, that they aren't just good minor hurlers, that they develop into being good senior hurlers for Nenagh,” Heffernan remarks.
“I suppose when I was growing up Nenagh weren't getting to that many county finals, but we seem to be getting there frequently enough.
“We have been there around the business end of the year which is a great sign that the club is going forward. It is just probably important to kick on a bit now aswell.”
Heffernan’s exploits with Tipperary illustrate what can be achieved.