Kyle Hayes: 'It was a special moment'
By Cian O'Connell
Kyle Hayes is adamant that the winter hardship helped Limerick gel together.
Most conversations surrounding Limerick include references to a boxing fundraiser that was organised before Christmas last year.
Bonds were formed and strengthened, Limerick's players were beginning to acquire belief ahead of a most remarkable 2018 journey.
"Last year we were only kind of getting to know each other because there was a lot of new guys on the panel," Hayes explains.
"This year with the boxing at the start of the year it was the best thing we ever did, getting to dig the heads of each other for a few weeks.
"It brought us so much closer. It's just all those hard training sessions, training in Rathkeale there, it always seemed to be lashing rain or snowing there or something there, but it all makes it worth it when you get a win."
On Sunday at Croke Park Hayes was simply thrilled to sample the sweet taste of an All Ireland victory. "Walking around there I had my niece on my shoulders," Hayes recalls. "It was a special moment. Down by the Hill 16 I met a few of my friends, seen them inside, just taking it all in, memories really for the rest of my life. And coming into the hotel, into the hall there, Zombie was playing, that's kind of our song.
"Just basically we were always playing their songs anyway but when Dolores (O'Riordan) passed away it's kind of held a bit of a meaning for us. We just adapted that as our song then for the year."
That the vast majority of Limerick's team had played in an All Ireland minor or Under 21 final was a benefit according to Hayes. "It did, like obviously they're on smaller stages, but it definitely did," Hayes responds.
"Like, the minor one we played in Croke Park so we'd been kind of through that routine before. Obviously there's the whole atmosphere of a final then, and we'd experienced that before."
Running out at GAA headquarters to a guttural Limerick roar was another factor. "Jeez, if you could bottle that you'd make millions," Hayes laughs. "It was just ridiculous, the Limerick crowd are just the best supporters in the world, they actually are. No matter what it is, whether it's soccer, rugby, football, whatever is going well, they're right behind it in fairness.
"We had a small chat about it. But to be fair, most matches we played this year there was always a big following at it so it was kind of preparing us the whole time.
"It's weird like, once you run out that's kind of it, you're in the zone then after that. Unless a goal goes in or something like that, but other than that you don't really notice it."
Hayes occupied himself by nailing four points on an historic afternoon that will linger long in Limerick memories.