Hurling

'You'd Hear Everything. John Kiely Is Fairly Animated On The Sideline'

'You'd Hear Everything. John Kiely Is Fairly Animated On The Sideline'

Before the 2018 All-Ireland final against Galway, Gearóid Hegarty and Diarmuid Byrnes had never played at Croke Park. To ready themselves for the experience, the two Limerick hurlers began visualising what it would be like.

"With Caroline Currid, who would be our psychologist, we just did a bit of work," says Hegarty, PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month for October.

"I would have kept visualising running out. This sounds stupid, but I remember I was there in 2007 for the All-Ireland Final against Kilkenny. I'll never ever forget for as long as I live, the roar for the Limerick team when they left the dressing-room that day, [it] absolutely nearly put the roof off the stadium. I thought it was the most incredible thing I've ever heard.

"I just kept visualising that over and over. I had been in the bowels of the dressing-room of Croke Park before, but I was never out on the field.

"So, I knew the layout from the dressing-room out to the field. I just kept visualising over and over and over again coming out of the dressing-room, turning left, turning right, and running out onto the field and hearing that noise over and over and over again so I'd just be used to it and it wouldn't take me by surprise when I ran out that day."

Before this year's championship games, Hegarty has again been using visualisation. This time, it's to help adjust to there being no crowd in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Semple Stadium.

A lack of noise does have its advantages, like being able to hear instructions from the sideline. It also makes communication with teammates easier.

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"You'd hear everything," Hegarty says.

"John (Kiely) is fairly animated on the sideline as it is, but I suppose when there's 82,000 people up above in Croke Park you can't hear what he's saying five yards away from you. But you can hear every instruction nowadays.

"The game itself is actually quite different for the players themselves because you actually use your voice a lot more. Whereas when there's a big crowd at a match it's all about using eyesight and hand gestures and what not. But you can actually roar and shout now and people will hear, so it is quite different.

"I'd prefer the fans to be there, but what can you do? You just have to use whatever is available to you at the time."

PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month for October, Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick, with his award at Desmond College in Newcastle West, Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The Munster semi-final against Tipperary was played in the type of deluge not seen by the people of Limerick since the filming of Angela's Ashes. Limerick won the game by nine points to set up this weekend's decider with Waterford.

"You could see with how high-scoring it was in the end that both teams coped with it pretty well," says Hegarty.

"But, yeah, it was tough, it was very tough.

"I actually got soaked going into the stadium. I got out of the car outside of Páirc Uí Chaoimh and had just a 30 second walk into the stadium but I got soaked it was so bad.

"In fairness, Páirc Uí Chaoimh is great because the dressing-rooms - I don't know if it's underground heating or what - but they'd be fairly warm. They wouldn't be freezing cold, like.

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"Loads of towels, fresh jerseys, get your spare hurley, and off you go again."

Hegarty's rapid start to the season - he hit five points from play against Clare and two more versus Galway - has him being talked about as a Hurler of the Year candidate.

"It's nice to be spoken about in that manner," says Hegarty.

"That's a subjective thing for people to judge at the end of the year after everything has been said and done. I'm not even thinking about the All-Ireland quarter-finals, semi-finals. We're just thinking about the Munster final.

"Waterford are a phenomenal team. They got to an All-Ireland final a few years ago. Maybe there were one or two years where they were struggling to find form but they were seriously impressive against Cork. They'll be an unbelievable challenge.

"I'm delighted with how I'm playing at the moment. It's short year but there's a long way to go yet, plenty more to be done."

See Also: Cusack Believes Dublin Hurlers Lack 'Top Class Forwards'

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PJ Browne
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