Ger Hickey relishing busy schedule
By Cian O’Connell
“Funny enough, I played senior hurling in Clare for years, and my first ever senior Clare Cup match was against Corofin at 16 years of age in Broadford, now I'm facing them in a Munster semi-final, it is amazing the way the wheel turns,” Ger Hickey laughs about the twists and turns in a sporting life.
Sunday’s AIB Munster Club Intermediate semi-final as Dromin-Athlacca manager is the next match in a packed 2023 schedule for Hickey.
The Broadford native has enjoyed a hugely productive campaign at every level in hurling. A coach with Clare’s successful Munster and All-Ireland minor winning teams, Hickey subsequently followed that up with silverware in the Limerick Premier Intermediate Championship.
Throughout that stint Hickey helped training juvenile players at Crecora-Manister. Time was always found for hurling. Hickey wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I'm living here in Crecora and am involved in the underage in Crecora,” he explains. “I was fortunate enough to get involved with the Clare Academy - I think this is my third year - we obviously had a great group of minors over the past two years.
“This year was huge, it was great to be a part of it, coaching a team that had a lot of quality in it. We were lucky and fortunate enough to get through to win a Munster Championship and then go on to win an All-Ireland.
“The start of the year was huge and then to win a county with Dromin-Athlacca, as coaching goes it has probably been my best year so far. You grab these opportunities when you have them because it doesn't always turn out that way.”
Undoubtedly it is demanding being involved coaching, but there is plenty of joy in the journey. “I'm at different levels, whether it is Crecora, whether it is with the county,” Hickey says. “What I see is that it is a huge commitment, but you learn at every level.
“You learn from the kids at U7 and U8, you learn from different coaches, who might be more experienced even at that end. When you go away from the underage, maybe focusing on adult sessions and adult tailored approach to training sessions, but I enjoy the difference. There is less pressure at underage, to go down to your local club, to train a bunch of kids, that is fantastic.
“Obviously, you get the buzz from playing in the big matches too. I'm fortunate enough to have great management teams around me too in Dromin-Athlacca, we have three or four lads, who are incredible clubmen.
“Without them we just wouldn't have the package we have and the lads are delivering. It is great to be busy at this time of the year.”
Hickey has forged a strong connection with Dromin-Athlacca. Emerging and established performers continue to combine with Limerick’s David Reidy supplying admirable leadership. “We actually started six U21s in the county final, the seventh one came on as a sub, he is probably one of our most established U21s - Cian Scully,” Hickey says.
“He was centre back on the Limerick U20 team this year, he has been out through injury all year with a serious ankle injury, he had surgery a couple of months back. He has worked really hard, he is well ahead of his scheduled time.
“He has come back in to training with us and has added to the pot. There is a nice blend then with the older lads, the two Reidys and Peter Ryan. Our six and 'keeper are the only two players that have played senior championship. While there is a blend of youth and experience, a lot of our experienced players wouldn't have necessarily played senior hurling before at club level.
“So, it is a huge boost for us. The likes of David Reidy, who has five All-Ireland medals, this is a huge prize for him, to be going out playing senior club hurling next year.”
Resilience and skill had to be demonstrated in a keenly contested Limerick Premier Intermediate competition. “The Limerick Championship, the way it is made up, you have got obviously 12 teams playing senior hurling,” Hickey says.
“Your next eight teams are Premier Intermediate, so to quality for the Premier Intermediate semi-final you have to be in the top four after seven matches. To win the championship you have nine games to play, so it is a really tough, long competition.
“Based on the numbers when you have nine games you are hoping that by the end of it, that the best team will win the championship. There isn't any room for slip ups at that stage, we are delighted to be out of it now.”
In his native Clare, encouraging signs have been available recently. Brian Lohan’s flagship team have been in the mix in the senior grade, while the minor triumph augurs well. “The work that has gone on in Clare you are probably only seeing the start of the results now in the sense that we have won an All-Ireland,” Hickey responds.
“The work for this started a long, long time ago, long before I got involved. Setting up the right structures at schools level, trying to support the clubs, at the development squad level bringing in the right coaches at U14, having the right people involved is critical.
“Getting a strength and conditioning programme that is suitable, this is the first or second crop that has had a full run through from start to finish from an S&C perspective. While we got the reward this year, the work has been going on for years, long before I got involved.”
Hickey highlights the valuable contributions made. “You have incredible people in Clare, the likes of Kieran McDermott, who is doing a lot of work with them,” he adds. “Donal Moloney, obviously, has huge experience, and our manager this year, Brian O'Connell, he has captained Clare in the past.
“Many more people too, along with them. It was a fantastic year, let us hope we can build on it for the future, to put as many players through to the adult team. That is the objective with any development squad set-up.”
With Crecora-Mainister, Clare, and Dromin-Athlacca, Hickey is helping to nurture talent.