Declan Hannon hoping to raise standards even higher
By Cian O'Connell
Following the success and silverware of 2018 Declan Hannon acknowledges Limerick's return to competitive Allianz League action on Sunday should be interesting.
A tough Division 1A test beckons against Wexford, who will be primed for a battle in the south east.
These are particularly exciting times for Limerick, who are delivering on vast underage promise. Hannon accepts that it is vital to maintain the high standards achieved under John Kiely's shrewd direction.
"Absolutely, I think the colleges as you see a number of other schools besides Ardscoil Ris, who were at the top of the Harty Cup for a while, you see Hospital Herbertstown school in the Harty Cup at the minute," Hannon remarks about the developments in Limerick during the past decade.
"It’s great for schools like that out in the countryside who maybe wouldn’t have been as competitive, but it bodes well for Limerick GAA at the minute that there is lads from out there and they are coming in to the set-up and to the Academy, it’s massive. I was too old to get involved in the Academy, but I see the benefits with the minors and the Under 21’s and the success that they’ve had.
"I played for five years Under 21 and we won two matches, and the boys are coming in having won two All-Ireland’s so, it’s a great boost they give to us and a confidence that they bring with that is brilliant."
That so many of those players sampled victories previously at Munster and All Ireland level in the underage ranks is important according to Hannon.
"Yeah, like Cian Lynch and Kyle Hayes, those lads have come from Ardscoil Ris winning Harty Cup’s, Mary I and UL winning Fitzgibbon Cups, minors winning Munster’s and getting to All-Ireland finals and obviously the Under 21’s winning two Munster, two All-Irelands.
"That mentality was massive that they brought in and it’s kind of a case of like why wouldn’t be winning whereas years gone by Limerick were maybe hoping to win a game, whereas the boys brought in a mentality of ‘sure why can’t Limerick win’.
"They give everyone massive confidence and they are so great, they are so dedicated and down to earth and grounded and they've brought energy and enthusiasm with them as well."
Hannon is adamant that Limerick's players will adopt the same principles and approach in the coming weeks and months. "I think so, you’ve probably met a good few of them they're sound like there’s no airs or graces with any of them and they all come from great families and are well-educated lads and I don’t think it’s had any effect on them," Hannon remarks about the 2018 triumph.
"Obviously, delighted at winning the All-Ireland last year, but we’ve all parked it and getting ready for 2019, it’s a level playing field and every team for themselves now, we’ll get stuck in and move on."
Having attained promotion from Division 1B Hannon is relishing the fact that Limerick will feature in several high profile games commencing against Wexford. "Yeah, they are the games we want and you want to put yourself against the best and Wexford are very strong, they had a good win against Kilkenny and seem to be motoring very well for the start of January,' Hannon states.
"You’re right they are the games you want to play in and if we can give a good performance we’ll be there or thereabouts and we’ll see where it takes us.
Is it any different returning to action as All Ireland champions compared to previous campaigns? "I don’t know, we played Tipp in the Munster league in December and they gave us a bit of a lesson, that brought us quickly back down to earth and showed us how far we are behind at the minute," Hannon responds.
"But the motivation is always there to go back, train hard to get ready for the League and Championship. It’s not that different to be honest to other years I’ve seen when there was a bit more pressure on us. We’ll focus on ourselves and focus on training and in house games getting ready for the League, take it game by game, training by training, to push ourselves hard to get the standards even higher than last year."