Memory of defeats make victory even sweeter for Limerick skipper Declan Hannon
LIMERICK skipper Declan Hannon deserved that broad smile after Sunday’s win over Cork.
Hannon knows how it feels to trudge off Croke Park well beaten in an All-Ireland semi-final because was there in 2013 and 2014 when Clare, then Kilkenny ended the Treatymen’s march at the penultimate hurdle.
But Limerick would not be denied on Sunday and they pulled away in extra-time to book their place in the Liam MacCarthy decider against the winners of Sunday’s Clare-Galway replay.
“There is always heartbreak in losses but I don't think we were ready in those years for the occasions and the semi-finals,” he said.
“We were a different group mentally and physically to this 2018 squad.
“I just thought we were in better space coming into today and we kept going and ground it out until the final whistle.”
Only Seamus Flanagan and Nickie Quaid remain from the last Limerick side to reach an All-Ireland final which ended in a seven-point loss to Kilkenny back in 2007.
“It is kind of a new group of lads, a new era,” said Hannon.
“As Tom Morrissey said before we’re ‘trying to create our own history’ and we've got to the All-Ireland final but we obviously want to win it because we really want to make history.”
In the aftermath of Sunday’s win Limerick manager John Kiely and man of the match Shane Dowling were quick to put up barriers which they believe will protect the players from the hype of the possibility of the county’s first All-Ireland since 1973.
“It is just from past experience of Limerick teams and management that we kind of roll on a wave of emotion after winning a Munster title or an All-Ireland quarter-final and then coming up to Croke Park for a semi-final and not ready - and just expecting it to happen,” Hannon explained.
“Limerick supporters are unbelievable and similarly again today.
“Similarly Cork, there was obviously a massive crowd there today (in excess of 71,000). But yes, we try and take ourselves as far away from the hype as possible and just get back training for the next few weeks.”
Limerick will go into the final as underdogs if defending champions Galway win Sunday’s Thurles replay with the Bannermen. But they proved their resilience yesterday by battling back from six points down with less than 10 minutes to go to force a deserved win.
“It didn't look great,” Hannon admitted.
“But I suppose we have been in that position before in League games, especially in Salthill against Galway in the final round of the League games and to get promoted.
“We were eight or nine points down at half-time.
“But this year we said we would try and stick to our game plan for 60 70 80 minutes there was no point in deviating because if we did deviate in these last few minutes we wouldn't have won or we wouldn't have gotten that draw in normal time.”
And their win was a complete team effort. Aaron Guillane top scored with 13 points, but the bench contributed a vital 2-6 and veteran goalkeeper Quaid produced a remarkable save to deny Cork’s Seamus Harnedy a goal in injury-time of normal time.
“It looked as if he was going to bury it,” said Hannon.
“He (Quaid) just came out of nowhere. If that went in it was over for us and they are just the fine margins and there is so little between the teams.
“I don’t know, you'd say if there had been a goal at that stage it was game over for either side.”