DECLAN HANNON BEGAN his captain’s winning speech yesterday by tipping his cap to the players and management who went before them in the 45 years since their last All-Ireland triumph.
The centre-back doubled down on that sentiment under the Hogan Stand afterwards as the enormity of what Limerick had achieved started to sink in.
“There are a lot of Limerick teams who have been there or thereabouts,” the 25-year-old said.
“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.”
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Wayne McNamara and Gavin O’Mahony received special praise from Hannon too.
“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.
“Those guys are unbelievable ambassadors for Limerick. They have taught me so much in terms of how to conduct yourself on the field, off the field. Particularly off the field because there’s a lot of media etc. They are guys who guided us.
Thanks to everyone for the lovely messages over the last number of hours… a real dream come true, can’t wait to see ye all back in Limerick 💚 #LuimneachAbú pic.twitter.com/6we5TzZ1JE
— Declan Hannon (@DecHannon) August 20, 2018
“It’s hard for them today if they stepped away last year or the last couple of years but those guys will be over the moon as well tonight.”
The Adare man played a starring role for Limerick at the heart of the defence, stealing forward for two first-half points. When he lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup over his head, he laid the ghosts of over four decades to rest.
“I don’t think it will dawn on us for another few weeks, but the boys are great, they are such a grounded group of lads. Of course we are going to enjoy this, have a sing song and many sing songs. We are delighted, it is two years of a gameplan being put into practice came out on the field, we are just over the moon.
“Hype away now. 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.
“I probably had my worst experience ever in Croke Park in 2013 and it took a while to get over that.
“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.”
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Shane Dowling admitted the 1994 final, when they let a five-point lead slip to Offaly in the dying minutes, crossed his mind as Galway cut the margin down to a single point in eight minutes of stoppage-time, but it never entered Hannon’s head.
“Not really. All I thought of was to win the next ball. You saw against Kilkenny when Tom Morrissey caught a puck-out when they got a goal…
“It was just going to happen. One of the boys was going to win a free or something, it was happening all year and worked again today.
“It was unreal (at the final whistle). 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,” he added.
Limerick’s strategy all year has been to take each game as it comes. How will they approach the celebrations?
“One day at a time, one week a time, one month at a time!” he smiled. “We’ll see what happens.”
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