Dreams turn into reality for Declan Hannon
By Cian O'Connell
It simply was a dream come true for Declan Hannon. The Limerick captain realised his sporting ambition by winning an All Ireland title on Sunday.
That Hannon was the captain added to the feel good factor, but joy and relief which greeted referee James Owens' final whistle.
“It was unreal," Hannon remarked. "I ran into Dan Morrissey, who nearly knocked me over, the size of him.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. You couldn’t buy it. A dream come true.
“Anyone who has played sport has walked around their back garden marching behind the band since they were four or five years of age pretending they were in Croke Park. For it to come true is a nice feeling."
Hannon, though, acknowledged that during his inter-county career Limerick endured demanding days at GAA headquarters also.
“I probably had my worst experience ever in Croke Park in 2013 and it took a while to get over that," Hannon stated about the 2013 semi-final defeat against Clare.
“These hardships build you as a person as well. The easy thing to do would be to say ‘I’ll leave it. I don’t want this anymore, but the boys are so grounded and everyone just dug in and kept going. It’s so worth it.”
Former Limerick players were fondly recalled by Hannon, who acknowledged the influence of Adare's Conor Fitzgerald and Mark Foley. “There are a lot of Limerick teams who have been there or thereabouts," Hannon added.
“They’ve obviously put in massive effort throughout the years and they did inspire us when we were growing up. We all looked up to the Conor Fitzgeralds and Mark Foleys of this world. They paved the path for us and we wanted to follow it. Look, we did, but they’ve had a big part to play in this as well."
The daring manner of Limerick's comeback promotion winning Allianz Hurling League Division 1B triumph over Galway at Pearse Stadium in March was noteworthy according to Hannon.
"I suppose the Galway game above in Salthill in the League, the first round against Tipperary set us up in the Munster round robin," Hannon responds when asked about key points in Limerick's campaign.
"You know yourselves how tough it is to get out of Munster so it put us in a good position. I suppose the Cork game and you could probably look at all the games. Look it all accumulated in a win."
John Kiely was eager to ensure that Limerick players wouldn't be bothered or burdened by expectation. "Hype away now," Hannon laughed.
"Look it is great. Limerick supporters are unbelievable and they have been year in, year out. The last few years haven't gone to plan for us, they still come out in their droves. It is hard when you are not winning.
"It is hard being a supporter and I've been a supporter myself going to matches when it is not working for the team, but they keep coming out. I'm delighted for them as well."