Friday 23 August 2019

I didn't want to be a one-trick pony - Gillane

Bulked-up forward has added a new dimension to his game as Treaty men aim to stay ahead of the chasing pack

‘I needed to put on a bit of weight and get a bit stronger,’ insists Aaron Gillane, as he looks to continue his fine form in 2019. Photo: Sportsfile
‘I needed to put on a bit of weight and get a bit stronger,’ insists Aaron Gillane, as he looks to continue his fine form in 2019. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

For Limerick's first goal in the 26th minute of last month's Munster hurling final, Aaron Gillane took a calculated gamble.

Getting out in front of Brendan Maher and turning him had been such a rarity up to that point, the Patrickswell man quickly sought to exploit it.

Maher slipped, giving Gillane room to make progress. A point was the easiest option and the option the 2018 Gillane would probably have opted for.

But being a defending All-Ireland champion, a player whose graph is continuing to rise, promotes different thinking. His flick across a crowded goalmouth, having stepped inside Seán O'Brien, was quite audacious. Peter Casey's finish was sublime.

The fact that it came so soon after Seamus Callanan's wonder goal for Tipperary provided a sharper context to what Gillane conjured and how Casey finished.

"Seamus Callanan was after scoring a goal two minutes earlier so I decided to push the boat out a small bit. The worst that was going to happen was that we'd either get a free in and score from that or go a bit more.

"Like Peter is one of the smartest players I've played with. The places he runs into. I don't even know where he came out of it. I'd say he came up out of a hole," said Gillane, offloading all credit.

But there would have been no finish if that boat hadn't been pushed out.

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"That's a way of looking at it," he said of the suggestion that, 12 months ago, the move wouldn't be on his radar.

"Last year I would have got the ball and hit it over but things click in your head, you don't want to become a one-trick pony and everyone knows what you're going to do so, try something different and we got rewarded.

"Whatever position you are playing in, you always want to be improving. If you are doing the same thing for every match you are going to become that one-trick pony so you're going to have to change it up.

"It's not just a case of hitting the ball in high and hoping for the best, you have to make these clever runs."

Gillane feels a different player in 2019, and he looks it too - having added between five and six kilogrammes since last year.

"At the end of last year, I think I was around 84 or 85kg. I think I'm up to 90 or 91kg now. So I try and stay around there.

"That is testament to our strength and conditioning coach Joe O'Connor. He works on each individual meticulously and maybe he thought I needed to put on a bit of weight and get a bit stronger. He needs to be complimented for that."

That Maher would step back a line to track him that day in the Gaelic Grounds says much about Gillane's advances as a hurler.

Among Maher's duties in this campaign have been to shadow Tony Kelly and Austin Gleeson, the two players who have won both Hurler of the Year and Young Hurler of the Year in the same year. Exalted company for Gillane, where he is not out of place.

"I don't read into that or look into that at all. I go out on the field and I have my job. I have a few targets that I need to hit and if I'm hitting them it doesn't matter who is on me."

Close attention is guaranteed as improvements in his game which brings him to another significant advance on 2018. When he looks back to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the Saturday night of their game with Cork in the round-robin and the red card he picked up, he sees a different player.

"It was only my third ever championship match. It was all kind of new to me at that stage. Definitely, I have learned from it," he said.

"It was probably the worst thing I have ever done because I have kind of came up against much worse in the matches we have played since then. All you can do is just stand up and take it, and try and get the next ball.

It's attention he expects and knows that it comes with the territory.

"I wouldn't say I'm the only one. I think any good back would be doing it to any forward so. It's just trying to put you off your game. I'm sure the three boys in our full-back line are doing the exact same thing. I can't complain too much.

"It isn't even verbal. I think those days are gone nearly. Obviously, everyone wants to win and all. I think that's more childish than anything. I really haven't come up against anyone like that so far anyway.

"As everyone says, you are told from you are six years of age, there's only one place you give your answer and that's on the scoreboard.

Armoury

"Just lost my head, and ultimately I let the team down that day. I'll say it until I'm old and not playing any more, if it wasn't for Graeme (Mulcahy) and Seamus (Flanagan), they really dug me out of a hole that day. Seamus had to be carried off the field because he had to do twice the amount of running."

With 2-41 scored so far, 0-33 from placed balls, free-taking is a big part of his armoury but practice is not something he gets too hung up on.

"I'd often hit a few frees the Tuesday or the Friday before training. If we'd gym on Wednesday, I'd take it handy during the day Thursday but pop in myself that evening but only for 20 minutes or half an hour. I wouldn't overdo it because if you missed a free or two it used to nearly eat up your mind. No, I just go in, go through the routine and come away happy just for peace of mind more than anything."

Routine has become everything to him as a player and Limerick as a team. When they arrive in their Croke Park dressing-room on Saturday afternoon, the sound of music will override everything.

"It kind of keeps us calm. It's normal, it's what we do. We walk into training and Tom Condon is there in the corner playing all these stupid songs and it's just the normal. It keeps us relaxed and focused because if you go in and there's no music your head is going to be in overdrive thinking. It just helps us go in, chill out and not think too much about the match at all."

Just the way he likes it.

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