Limerick hurler Declan Hannon, left, and Galway footballer Paul Conroy during the Do Chlub, Do Chontae – Cuir Ort An Fáinne photocall at Croke Park in Dublin.
Limerick hurler Declan Hannon, left, and Galway footballer Paul Conroy during the Do Chlub, Do Chontae – Cuir Ort An Fáinne photocall at Croke Park in Dublin. 

Cúpla focal give Declan Hannon food for thought

By Michael Devlin

There were a lot of things racing through Declan Hannon’s mind as he stood at the top of the Hogan Stand steps ready to collect the Liam MacCarthy Cup last summer.

Facing a sea of green, a rapturous sound, and a pulsing wave of euphoria flowing all around Croke Park, Hannon was about to try and put into words the feeling of ending a 45-year wait and winning Limerick’s eighth ever All-Ireland hurling title.

He delivered a rousing seven-minute speech that paid tribute to all the past Limerick players, managers, coaches and supporters who had gone before and inspired the crop of 2018 to bring hurling’s top prize back to the Treaty County.

Though not until he respectfully bowed to the tradition of All-Ireland winning captains and opened his address in Irish as he collected the cup from Uachtarán CLG John Horan.

“That’s the way it’s been forever, and it’s something I wanted to do. I’d have loved to have done the whole speech as Gaelige, but no doubt I’d have made a few mistakes!” Hannon joked to “But no, I was very conscious of the first couple of lines as Gaelige. It went okay anyway!”

The Limerick captain was speaking at the announcement of the GAA’s plans to promote the Fáinne at Croke Park last week. The incentive, backed by Conradh na Gaeilge and Gael Linn, is to encourage GAA members to wear their Fáinne Óir (gold) and Fáinne Airgid (silver) pins on matchdays, which will hopefully result in more people conversing in Irish at our games.

While Hannon admits he is by no means a fluent Irish speaker, he describes his experience with the language as “very positive.”

“I’d love to be a lot more fluent than what I am, but I had some great teachers in primary school and secondary school. I really enjoyed it.

“I suppose in the few years after the Leaving Cert it fell away a small bit, but I try to use it where I can I suppose. I didn’t go to the Gaeltacht, I think I was too caught up in training when I was younger, but if I had my time back I would have done a lot more.

“There’s Irish shows in TV and radio that you can tune into everyday, so things like that I try to do from time to time and you’d pick up words and new sentences and phrases.”

Declan Hannon captained Limerick to All Ireland SHC glory in 2018.
Declan Hannon captained Limerick to All Ireland SHC glory in 2018.

Hannon believes that his desire to develop his Irish skills has been boosted by his role as Limerick captain, and that the language has a huge importance within the GAA.

“The Irish language is a massive part of our culture and heritage, and its definitely at the back of my mind a lot of the time when I’m going to different events, that you have your ‘cúpla focal’ and you’re able to converse a bit with the Gaelgeoirs that’ll be at these events, and give it the respect it deserves.

“You see a lot of the Gaeltachts competing in GAA competitions which is great. Down in Dingle for example, the Páidí Ó Sé competition which is all Gaelige. My own club went there for a competition and you were only allowed to speak the Irish language.

“A lot of the lads wouldn’t have had Irish at all, and there was a free given against you for speaking English, and that’s great because it made a couple of lads learn a few words going down to the competition and use them as well. It’s a great idea.”

The bio line on Hannon’s Twitter page reads, “An rud is annamh is iontach!”, translating as “What is seldom is wonderful”, and his whooping ‘Luimneach Abú!” had the Limerick fans in raptures at the team’s victory homecoming last August. The Adare man revealed the Irish language is alive and well within the the Limerick dressing room.

“A good few Limerick lads are teachers, Richie English and Nicky Quaid would have a good solid base of Irish, Cian Lynch is very good at Irish. A lot of lads are looking to go back to do Masters education, they have to do Irish interviews to get into the course, so they’re tipping away the whole time.

“There are times at training and afterwards where a couple of lads have a few Irish words here and there, but I’d say like myself, we’d prefer to be a bit more fluent.

“If lads are looking to getting into Gaelscoils and things like that for teaching jobs, it’s a massive advantage to have a good standard of Irish.”