Confidence the key for Aaron Gillane
By John Harrington
Limerick’s Aaron Gillane is a poster-boy for just how transformative a quality confidence can be for a hurler.
At the start of 2017 his reservoirs of it were running low after he was cut from the Limerick hurling panel ahead of their Allianz Hurling League campaign.
But his Fitzgibbon Cup team manager in Mary Immaculate College, Jamie Wall, had huge faith in him, and that made all the difference.
He made Gillane the focal point of his star-studded team’s attack, and the Patrickswell man repaid that trust in spades.
He scored 3-6 in a win over Dublin IT, 2-10 in the quarter-final, 0-12 in the semi-final, and 1-5 in the Final as Mary I were crowned Fitzgibbon Cup champions.
Gillane has since starred in All-Ireland winning campaigns for the Limerick U-21s in 2017 and the seniors this year, but he’s not sure if all that would have happened for him without Wall’s vote of confidence.
“I can't talk highly enough of that man to be honest with you and what he's done for me personally,” said Gillane yesterday at the launch of PwC’s All-Stars app.
“It was him that gave me my chance. It would have been very easy to throw in someone else, especially with all the star-studded names we had.
“He just threw me onto the field and said, 'Take the shackles off. Don't be worrying about who's around you or who's marking you.
“There's no pressure on you. Everyone's going to be worrying about the big names'. So I think that definitely benefited me as well.
“As well as being a good coach he's a very good man manager as well. The time and effort he puts into coaching it's a testament to the things he's won.”
Gillane always had ability, but until that Fitzgibbon Cup run with Mary I he would never really have been touted as a definite senior star in the making.
For much of his underage career he struggled to make the grade, but his relatively late blossoming has been a fairly spectacular one.
“Up along I would have been on the U14s, U15s and U16s 'B' teams,” said Gillane. “I was just there, I wasn't really enjoying it as much as I'm enjoying it these days.
“Getting that good run of form in the Fitzgibbon Cup, it certainly gives you a bit of confidence.
“When you're winning a big competition like that you don't want to stop. I kept working hard and the same to John (Kiely), he gave me my chance with Limerick this year.
“I can't thank him enough for that. It all boils down to hard work, if you want to be playing you'll be playing.”
Gillane was one of Limerick’s best players during the League and started the Championship in fine form with eight points against Tipperary.
He feared all his good work had been undone though when he was red-carded in Limerick’s second match of the campaign against Cork.
That saw him suspended for the win over Waterford and then held in reserve for Limerick’s final match of the provincial championship against Clare.
“I thought I was after ending my year and apart from that I was after letting the boys down massively,” said Gillane. “It was a great result for us to get the draw that day against Cork.
“We couldn't have done it without the work of Seamus and Graeme in the full-forward line.
“I was kind of disappointed at the end because if we'd lost that match and lost to Clare, I wouldn't be sitting here today with the Liam MacCarthy. So, thank God, the boys pulled me out of that one.
“Walking off the field, the thing that was going through my head in my head was that I'd worked so hard to actually get onto the team and now I'm after playing myself off the team.
“Luckily after the Clare match - we had a bad day at the office - we went back training and no one was promised their position.
“Everyone went full at it, hammer and tongs. I thought I trained well enough for that two or three weeks and I got my chance against Carlow and took it.
“Then against Kilkenny, it just kicked on from there.”
Gillane got better the further Limerick went in the Championship and finished up as their top scorer with a tally of 1-37.
A player who once doubted himself is now firmly established as one of the best forwards in the game, and Limerick should reap the rewards for years to come.
“I'd say everyone is the same,” said Gillane. “If you're playing within your shell, you're not going to get the best out of yourself.
“You do need that confidence to express yourself on the field. That's when you're going to get the best out of yourself.”