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How Return To Junior Hurling Brought Gearóid Hegarty 'Back Down To Earth'

17 August 2022; PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for July/August in hurling, Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick, with his award at PwC offices in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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"I'd be lying if I said it was anything other than extremely tough," says Gearóid Hegarty about going from the pinnacle of hurling with Limerick in the All-Ireland final last month to playing Junior A Championship with his club St Pats.

"You go from our set-up at inter-county level, which is obviously extremely high, pretty much professional without being it in name, and you go from the Gaelic Grounds, perfectly cut every time you come into training, bags of brand new sliotars there waiting for you...

"We had our first game in a basically a thunderstorm against Killeedy there a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night, and we went back training on the Tuesday night down the field, and the field was about six inches long, and all the sliotars were soaked from the game on the Saturday night, they weren't dried out.

"I just said, 'Wow, what a trip back down to earth from the highs we've had over the last number of weeks'. But look, that's the club scene, it's like a different sport. It's great to be involved at the same time.

"We won the Junior Championship a couple of years ago, and it's on such a smaller scale but it means so much as well because they are the lads you grew up hurling with. Now my brother is on the team as well with the club.

"We need to get back up to intermediate. There is so much work going on in my club at underage level. It will be a number of years before we see the fruition of that. It would be nice to get back up to intermediate for the crop of players that are coming through.

"I was down there presenting medals at underage training recently for the U8s, 10s, and 12s. Honest to God, there must have been 30 or 40 at every age. I know 30 or 40 might not be much for some clubs. I'm up in Dublin at the moment, and some clubs have seven or eight teams [at each underage level]. Where I'm from, we're a really small club in inner city Limerick. To have 30 at any underage group is a massive achievement for us. It's all relative."


gearoid hegarty limerick hurling

17 July 2022; Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

For the third consecutive season, as Limerick won the All-Ireland hurling title, Hegarty was one of their keys players, scoring 1-5 in a Man of the Match performance. It added to his 2-2 in the 2021 final against Cork, and his 0-7 against Waterford in 2020. His impact at the highest level of the sport is massive. At junior level, opponents do everything they can to curb it.


"There are [lads trying to welcome you back to junior]," says Hegarty, the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for July/August in hurling.

"You've got to take it. That's man-marking, and it's something I wasn't always used to. It's become a thing over the last number of years, but you've got to take that as a compliment.


"You can see it as a negative, 'God, there's someone going to be following me around for the whole day'. There's a reason to it. You've just got look at it on the positive side, that a team is setting out with someone to follow you for the day, and even at junior level, there might be two or three of them.


"You've got to go out there and do your best. I suppose it's setting up space for other people to maybe impact the game. That's the way it goes."

Hegarty hasn't spoken to his St Pats clubmates about the revised GAA calendar. To see its positive impact, he doesn't need to.

"Look at the wet weather that the club championships have been played in over the last number of years," he says.


"I know there's been record attendances at club games down in Limerick over the last number of weeks. There were thousands at a Premier Intermediate game a couple of weeks ago in Clarina between Kildimo and Mungret who are [local] rivals.

"Spectators are getting to go to club games again in August in beautiful weather. Club players are getting to play proper championship games on good surfaces. There's been a bit of focus on the negatives around it. Yes, the season is condensed but there are so many positives associated with the split season as well.

gearoid hegarty limerick hurling

17 July 2022; Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

"I'm personally a big fan of it. I think the demands on the players nowadays are getting harder and harder. Shortening the [inter-county] season a small bit, it is putting pressure on you from game-to-game; if you get a niggle, you might miss two or three games, but that's just life.

"Every single inter-county team this year would have trained over 100 times, and some of them 150 times depending on when they went back and how far they went in the championship. If you think about training 150 times for maybe six league games, and five or six championship games, there's no other sport in the world that does that.


"Look at the Premier League, they're playing games every single week. Basketball in America, NFL, it's all games week on week. I know it's tough, but in my opinion as a player what you want is games. You don't want a game followed by a five-week block of training before your next game. That's much harder to me than it would be to have a game, and recover for a couple of days, and have a game the following week or even a two-week break to the next game.

"Players want games, spectators want games. I think it's great. I think the split season is brilliant. I know it was very shortened. I'm not saying it's the perfect solution; I don't think there is a perfect solution. Maybe it could be made slightly better, I'm not sure, but I thought this year was very beneficial. This year was a success, definitely."

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