When Adare’s Declan Hannon raised the Liam MacCarthy Cup for a fourth time as captain, he had Cian Lynch standing alongside him. It was a fine gesture from the team captain to bring up Lynch, who was cruelly ruled out of the game after suffering an ankle injury a week earlier in training.
“Absolutely over the moon, it was a titanic struggle at times to get over the line but it’s sheer elation now,” said Hannon afterwards. “It’s a dream come true every year but it’s true.
“A lot of time, effort and commitment goes into a day like today and it’s so special for our group – we’ve created something really strong in the last few years. I’m very proud of the boys and the way they dug deep there at the end – and we had to, because Kilkenny came at us with absolutely everything we tried to do for a finish.
“I’m over the moon for absolutely everybody, we were dealt a few blows throughout the year, and in the last week even with Cian, the group just rallied together and it was nearly sheer stubbornness got us over the line.”
Hannon became the first skipper to lead his team to four All-Irelands.
“It’s a nice achievement to have but your job is to do the job for the team,” he reflected. “Individual accolades or things like that, they’re not irrelevant but when you’re playing, they kinda are.
“I’m overjoyed for the group and everyone winning. Obviously it’s a nice piece of history for me. It is always about the group. It has to be about the group, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are.
“The three in a row for the group is a serious achievement. The standard of hurling in the country is amazing. To be able to back it up year in, year out, is testament to the hard work and the hunger that is still there in the group.
“It would be easy to roll over and say, ‘We kinda have enough now, let somebody else do it.’ But there’s great hunger there to drive on.”
He said beating Kilkenny in a final didn’t represent another major milestone for the team.
“An All-Ireland final, we don’t choose who we play. Whoever it is, we have to try and beat them. Kilkenny have been and probably still are the kingpins in hurling. Maybe for other people who have questioned Limerick over the years that they haven’t beaten Kilkenny to win an All-Ireland, maybe it will quieten a few people that way.
“We built up a couple of leads of five points or six points at times but Kilkenny haven’t won so many All-Irelands by just rolling over. They’re relentless, they keep going and going, and they came with everything.
“We were under savage pressure – they were winning balls they shouldn’t be winning and we weren’t winning balls we should – but that’s testament to Kilkenny. That’s why they’re the team they are, and why they’re the team they have been forever.
“We’ve learned a lot from Kilkenny, the way they play and the sheer intensity they bring to games, it’s relentless stuff from them – the physicality and the skill, it was never going to be an easy game today. Lads are just knackered at the moment but they enjoyed it as well.”
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