Declan Hannon remains focused on Championship
By Cian O'Connell
Having generated such momentum during 2018 Limerick captain Declan Hannon acknowledges that the Allianz League was highly important for John Kiely's outfit.
So impressive when claiming the Liam MacCarthy Cup last August, Limerick added the League crown at Croke Park when defeating Waterford.
Ensuring Limerick were ready, willing, and able to perform early in the year was critical according to Hannon. "I suppose we continued our form from 2018 onto 2019," Hannon says. "We put a big focus on the League and didn't want to just come into the League to win an old game here and there and lose the rest.
"We didn't want that to happen because momentum is a massive thing in the GAA and hurling in particular. We wanted to be going into the Championship with as many competitive games as possible and we got that over the League."
Valuable lessons were learned so Hannon is encouraged by how the current campaign continues to unfold."We got as much as we possibly could out of the League which was fantastic," Hannon states.
"To collect silverware at the end of it was an added bonus. It was a solid League and it's continued from 2018. But the League is the League and the Championship with be a different kettle of fish."
Hannon accepts that Limerick will enter the summer with a target on their back as the in form team to beat. "I suppose we do, but I know we focus primarily on ourselves and getting ourselves ready for the games and into the best shape that we can be going into the Championship and we'll continue to do that over the next three, four, five weeks in preparation for the Cork game," Hannon remarks about Limerick's first Munster tussle against Cork.
"If we've a target on our back, we've a target on our back, but we'll be focusing on our own performances and see where it takes us."
Kiely' panel is nicely stocked with accomplished performers so there is no shortage of options in Limerick. "There's massive competition for places all over the field," Hannon admits.
"Anyone who is sitting on the sideline looking in is thinking 'how am I gonna get my position back in this team, and that goes for everybody, it doesn't matter how long you've been there or how many games you've played.
"And that's the way you want it. The likes of Shane [Dowling] and Seamus Flanagan coming on the last day as well. It's the impact they have when they come onto the field, it gives everyone a big boost and it was great to see Mike Casey get back onto the pitch the last day."
Former Galway hurler Tony Og Regan has recently replaced Caroline Currid as Limerick's performance coach. "Yeah, everybody has met Tony on a one-to-one basis and as a group setting," Hannon says.
"He’s been very very good, a seamless transition from Caroline Currid last year to Tony this year. Lads have bought into and they’re very happy with Tony."
It is an area of preparation in which Hannon has become more interested in. "I suppose I wasn’t really before, maybe a bit more now," Hannon responds. "Different things in preparation, everything like that, there’s massive benefits to having a sport performance coach. They’re excellent at what they do, and it’s the small things, they pick up on everything.
"Previously I might have said ‘ah I’ll be grand’, but you mightn't always be grand. Caroline converted us, yeah, she was fantastic. Tony has just carried on where Caroline left off last year so look, it’s very very good."
When asked about the specific areas in which sports psychology benefits players Hannon talks about remaining focused. "In the preparation I suppose, and how you block out any outside influences, it’s probably one of the main ones to be honest," Hannon comments.
"Maybe in years gone by Limerick got carried away with what people said in the media or what fans were saying, it’s kind of irrelevant at the end of the day. We have to go onto the pitch and do what we have to do. People could tell you go left and you’d go right or whatever, we kind of just focus more on ourselves."
That approach has helped earn Limerick success and silverware.