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INNER STRENGTH Embarrassment of not being able to lift weights helped shape Limerick's Gearoíd Hegarty

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 Gearóid Hegarty celebrates Limerick's All-Ireland success

Gearóid Hegarty celebrates Limerick's All-Ireland success

SPORTSFILE

Limerick hurler Gearóid Hegarty pictured with his PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month - Finals Award.

Limerick hurler Gearóid Hegarty pictured with his PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month - Finals Award.

SPORTSFILE

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Gearóid Hegarty celebrates Limerick's All-Ireland success

IN some ways, it’s counter-intuitive, but one of the things that helped turn Gearóid Hegarty into the dominant hurler he is today was a football training session.

Nowadays, Hegarty is an All-Star in-waiting, the Hurler of the Year-elect and one of the most potent weapons in John Kiely’s considerable arsenal. But along with his skill, the power and athleticism he’s put into his giant frame helped set him apart in 2020.

And he revealed that the roots of his physical transformation can be found in a chastening experience at a strength session with the Limerick footballers.

Called into the Treaty County’s football squad as a 19-year-old, Hegarty learned the hard way what it would take to make it at county level.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without football, without a doubt,” said Hegarty, who was named as the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for his All-Ireland final display.

“There was a great story about the first morning I was in with the panel and we had a strength test in the old building in UL.

“I remember Garrett Noonan was in front of me. You had to bench three quarters of your body weight. He was the same weight as me, he got down and did 25 reps. It is something I’ll never ever forget as long as I live.

“He did 25 reps at 70kg. I got down then – I had hardly any gym work done at that stage of my life – and I said, ‘Jesus, this can’t be too bad’. I got down and I couldn’t even lift the bar. I was never so embarrassed in all my life. I swore to myself that will never happen again.”

After that, Hegarty got to work. Slowly but surely, he packed muscle onto his 6’5” frame. But first, football manager John Brudair recognised he’d have to concentrate on either hurling or football in order to reach his potential.

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Limerick hurler Gearóid Hegarty pictured with his PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month - Finals Award.

Limerick hurler Gearóid Hegarty pictured with his PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month - Finals Award.

SPORTSFILE

Limerick hurler Gearóid Hegarty pictured with his PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month - Finals Award.

Hegarty had put down two seasons with the footballers and had a burgeoning reputation with the big ball. But following in the footsteps of his father Ger, hurling for Limerick was always the long term ambition.

It wasn’t long before TJ Ryan picked up the phone and in 2016, he made his championship debut along with Richie English. Two years later he started the All-Ireland final as Limerick secured the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

That day he was withdrawn with 15 minutes to go but, as a measure of his progress, he was front and centre last year as Limerick made it two All-Irelands in three years.

There was no real secret to his up surge in form, except for maybe learning to take things a little less seriously.

“I always knew it (this level of performance) was in me but it was just trying to get it out of me. When I look back myself at my games and was looking back at the end of the year, I never really strung together a few top class performances. I might have one, then I might have a weak enough game followed by a decent game. So I kind of challenged myself on my consistency this year a good bit more.

“But to be honest, and it’s not even in a sporting sense, but it was the lockdown. I just stopped worrying about the small things. There’s so much more to life when you think about it.

“We went into a global pandemic and we were restricted in our movements . . . you could only do a certain amount of things and I was thinking at home, in the lead up to a game, the things I used to be doing.

“I used to be worrying about every single thing. If I got a bad night’s sleep on a Wednesday before a game on a Sunday I’d still be thinking about it on a Sunday morning. If I didn’t train well on a Friday night I’d be thinking ‘aw god you’re not going to play well now’.

“There were just so many worries in my head that were there before (games). And working with Caroline Currid, our sports psychologist, and me just relaxing a small bit more, I think were huge factors in my performances.”

In the All-Ireland final, Hegarty was peerless though he wasn’t fully aware of just how well he’d played.

“I read a book, ‘In the Zone’, by Clyde Brolin, and it is all about flow and getting into flow. I actually got a bit of a slagging off a few of the lads after the match because I came into the dressing room and I knew I was after having a really good game, but I genuinely didn’t know what I was after scoring. David Reidy was beside me and he said, ‘Jesus, did you score seven points?’ I said, ‘I genuinely don’t know’. So I got out my phone and texted my girlfriend who was at home watching it and she said, yeah, you got seven points.

“I remember being above in the All-Ireland final a couple of years ago when Séamus Callanan got nine points from play. I was there watching it and thinking this is incredible. It still hasn’t really sunk in with me, to be honest, in a really weird way.

“I don’t know, maybe, is it because the fans weren’t there. It is weird when I even think back about it. I was really in the zone. I can hardly remember some parts of the game. It was literally, I know it is a saying, but it was like an out of body experience at times, it didn’t even feel like it was me.”

Public health permitting, training for the new season is on the horizon. But until then, the gym bag will remain under the stairs.

“When the season ends, you’ve got to take that break to refresh yourself physically and mentally because I need to be hungry for training. Even now I am looking forward to going back, but I’ll take the next two weeks or whatever it is to hold myself back because we train so hard, we devote such a long time and when you do go back it’s going to be five or six months of really clean living and so on.

“I have to take a break because it wouldn’t work for me otherwise.”

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