Gearóid Hegarty and the art of saving the best until last 

Gearóid Hegarty and the art of saving the best until last 

You suspect Gearóid Hegarty will be the subject of a PhD thesis in the years to come. Suggested title: The Psychology of Finals and Why Certain Players Always Perform in Them.

Confidence is clearly key. The Limerick wing-forward has plenty of it. Asked about how his marker Paddy Deegan gave him a reminder after he posted a wide in the first half of last Sunday’s All-Ireland final, Hegarty smiles: “I’d about 1-3 got at that stage so I was kind of happy enough.” 

An aggregate total of 3-14 across his last three All-Ireland finals is the work of a man at ease with occasion and the necessity to perform. But bouncebackability counts for plenty too. In his first final, he was scoreless and replaced by Shane Dowling in the 56th minute. In his next championship appearance in Croke Park, he was again benched for Dowling in the very same minute of the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kilkenny.

His four-point total against Galway in the 2020 semi-final was his reaction to two bad personal afternoons in GAA HQ and he then looked liberated in that year’s final against Waterford, scoring seven points. However, while he had taken plenty of punishment from the same opposition in the 2021 last-four game, he was again subdued and taken off. And yet his comeback the next day, the biggest day, against Cork was 2-2.

This year’s All-Ireland semi-final was the third in five All-Ireland semi-finals in which Hegarty hasn’t finished the game. 

For his eight points across them, scoring 1-5 last Sunday he matched it in one game.

Of course, those below-par showings drove him, especially 2019 against The Cats.

“Deep down, subconsciously, there was definitely something there in terms of how the day went for me in 2019 but I love the word ‘respond’. I think you can respond to anything in life whether it’s good or bad and going into the game (last Sunday) I was thinking ‘respond to what happened’.” 

Few have done more for Limerick on the greatest hurling day but Hegarty wouldn’t mind admitting plenty of others have done more to give him that opportunity. 

“It’s funny, collectively, as a group, we were all disappointed after the semi-final (v Galway), which was mad. 

“We went back training on the Tuesday night and we were actually quite down but that was the atmosphere in the room when we were reviewing the game.

“Personally, it wasn’t my best day in terms of getting the most out of myself. But David Reidy is one of my best friends on the panel and I was so grateful for what he did that day because I was thinking if we were to be beaten in the semi-final having given that performance that I wasn’t happy with, it’s a long few months before you go back into next year.” 

If finals haven’t provided Hegarty with reprieves, they have been the stages where his father, former Limerick hurler, Ger would have advised him to dance and he has. “I remember growing up as a young fella, we’d always used to be down the field in St Patrick’s and my father would be telling me it’s so important to perform on the big day.

“There are a lot of shenanigans that goes with it, there is a bit of a circus that goes with the All-Ireland final especially. I didn’t realise until I saw that I was top scorer from play in the last three finals, which is a cool, little thing. That’s a lovely thing to be said about you.” 

Scorer of two of the finest goals in this championship, Hegarty is reminded that he hadn’t been going well in the Munster final before that dazzling move to produce one against Clare. And if he were to choose between it and that fifth minute goal 12 days ago?

“Off the top of my head, I’d say the one in the Munster final was probably slightly better because of the conditions, it was so greasy and I had obviously miscontrolled the pass that Tom (Morrissey) popped to me.

“I saw the Clare fella coming in from the left and I instinctively flicked it over his head and

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