'I didn't want to go out on the field at all' - Limerick hero Declan Hannon reveals 2013 hate mail
It's nearly two months since Limerick reached hurling's pinnacle and it's only with that considerable monkey off his back that Declan Hannon feels he can finally open up about the dark days.
For most inter-county players, the bad days easily outnumber the good and it was one of those off-days that stuck in Hannon's mind for the past five years - their 2013 All-Ireland semi-final loss to neighbours Clare.
"Probably the worst experience I had in a Limerick jersey" saw a 20-year-old Hannon substituted in the 50th minute having missed a series of frees that he would normally score in his sleep.
The aftermath took its toll on the Adare clubman - a teenage prodigy who made his championship debut while still a Leaving Certificate student - and the "flak" from Treaty fans scarred him for some time.
"Getting messages off random people and anonymous letters" as well as your family getting abuse over a performance shouldn't be the norm and such instances were difficult for Hannon to deal with.
"I thought from listening to it that I was after costing Limerick an All-Ireland and it was your fault like. It was hard," Hannon said at yesterday's GAA Super Games Centre National Blitz Day in partnership with Sky Sports.
"I always thought that if I could contribute positively to a Limerick team winning an All-Ireland I can eventually park that and put it away and that's only happened this year so I was carrying that for a while.
"We'd Caroline Currid (sports psychologist) involved with us this year and she was brilliant, she was brilliant to talk to about everything and anything. That was something I always went out onto the field with in the back of my mind.
"I remember we had club championship two weeks after it, and I didn't want to go out onto the field at all, I was embarrassed going out there after what happened two weeks previous, letting people down and stuff like that.
"Even if you were going to things, like giving out medals. You will be saying, 'Yeah, yeah I will do it' but in the back of your mind, you will be wondering if they are all thinking what happened against Clare.
Positive "Everywhere I went, and they were kind of saying, 'That was the man who had that game against Clare'. That was the last thing I wanted to be remembered for. At least now, I would hope that people will remember myself and all the boys in a positive light.
"Because a lot of time and energy goes into it, and it is a slog throughout the year and if you are carrying that, it makes it even harder. I used not want to talk about it, but now I am able to move on."
Hannon's honest account came on World Mental Health Day and the Limerick skipper encourages others to seek advice rather than bottle it up like he did. "If people are going through a lot of things the best thing to do is have a chat with your friend or something, get it off your chest. You'll feel a lot better about it. I would just talk about it," he said.
"I didn't talk to anybody about it, didn't want to see anyone, didn't even want to go down to the club training because I thought they were talking about it. I was just embarrassed. I should have just talked about it."
With those demons exorcised, Hannon tries to ensure that similar instances don't befall the current Limerick crop, particularly after the high of All-Ireland success and ending their 45-year famine.
"There's a lot of other things going on in life. Hurling is great. Enjoy it, and enjoy the success, but everyone, we have jobs and a lot of other things going on as well. You can't leave that affect you as well.
"I didn't want to go out at that time, I didn't want to go anywhere. That is no way to be living. I am just delighted to be able to advise the lads if anything is going wrong with them I just hope that they would just be able to pick up the phone and I'll help them out."
John Kiely's relocation of Hannon - who works in recruitment with Unijobs - to centre-back was central to Treaty success and he looks certain to win his first All-Star after his best season in green and white.
The words of Chumbawamba's 1990s hit, 'I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down', could be the soundtrack of a career which promises plenty more highs in the seasons to come.
"It made this year a lot sweeter to come full circle and go through that massively low point and eventually come out the right side," Hannon added. "You just have to keep going, these things happen in sport and in life, people get knocked down but there's no point in giving in."
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