“I stood back a small bit this year and stopped doing a ridiculous amount of work.”
Limerick beat Waterford to reclaim the Liam MacCarthy Cup and Hegarty is basking in the glory of a second All-Ireland title in three years.
Hegarty himself gave a shooting exhibition in the final scoring 0-7 point from play, with some of those scorers coming from outrageous angles.
The St. Patrick’s clubman was speaking to the media after winning his PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month award.
“This year I actually stopped doing extra work,” he explained.
“Maybe in the past, I was doing too much and burning myself out and wasn’t super fresh coming into games.
“I stood back a small bit this year and stopped doing a ridiculous amount of work. Just do what was set out for you and then you are fresh going into a game.”
Previously, the Limerick wing-forward had done an enormous amount of work in past seasons, potentially to his detriment.
“Even in the gym I would always do an extra set – if we were given three sets I would do four,” he admitted.
“It sounds great but Mikey Kiely is a super strength and conditioning coach. If he thinks three sets is enough then why was I doing a fourth one when I don’t know anything about it?”
“Over the last couple of years, I have done an incredible amount of work to get to where I am today because any person on an inter-county panel around the country are going to need an incredible amount of work to get there in the first place.”
— The GAA (@officialgaa) December 13, 2020
Hegarty signalled out Limerick’s performance psychologist’s Caroline Currid as a big factor in Limerick’s success last year.
The 2020 Hurler of the Year in waiting has a great relationship with Caroline. He recalls a mid-season phone-call that changed everything.
He said: “We were actually given a break at one stage. I think it was seven weeks off and I can’t remember what time it was because time didn’t exist over the lockdown.
“We were given the break and we were after doing a really hard block of training with gym work and running.
“After two or three days it was on my mind and the little voice in my head was saying why are you taking a break when other fellas will be doing a bit?
“I just said I have to ring Caroline and ask her. She was like ‘you were given a break, so will you take it and don’t be stupid’.
“Even though I knew she was going to say that, I still had to ring her and hear those words and then settle down.
“That was one of the most important phone calls I made all summer to ring her. I was really hungry for training when we came back after those couple of weeks.
“She is a special person and I am delighted she is working with us”.
In his fifth year on the senior hurling panel, Hegarty also revealed that he has finally learnt the importance of asking questions.
The secondary-school teacher in Desmond College would constantly preach the importance of asking questions to his student. Something, he only recently realised could be applied to himself at inter-county level.
“I think this year I went out of my way to ask more questions,” the 26-year-old said.
“Thinking about it, I always tell my students in Desmond College in Newcastle West that they need to see the other students in the classroom as a resource. If they are stuck, ask the person beside you.
“I was internally reflecting and said, am I asking enough questions of the people that are in our group? We are fortunate to have some absolutely fantastic people in their own departments.”
“I probably wasn’t asking them [backroom team] the questions that I should have been asking”.
Limerick are being talked up as ‘the team’ for 2021, some even comparing them to the Dublin footballers but Hegarty hasn’t even allowed himself to think that far ahead.
“I actually genuinely haven’t thought about the year ahead at all,” the 6’5 wing-forward replied when asked about the expectations of the upcoming season.
“I am very cognizant of the fact that it is such a quick turn around from December 13. I really made it my business to take a break from everything. We haven’t met up at all after the few days we had.
“There hasn’t been any contact from the group. We are not going back (to) training for another couple of weeks because they gave us a break.
“I honestly haven’t thought about the year ahead because I made it my business to physically and mentally park it for a couple of weeks.”
— The GAA (@officialgaa) December 13, 2020
Hegarty is enjoying the break another lockdown brings.
Inter-county teams were due to be back in collective training at the start of this month but this has been pushed out until the start of February at the earliest.
When asked whether he was keeping himself fit, Hegarty stated:
“I haven’t done anything myself personally, I’d still go for a walk in the evening and stuff with the dog.
“Like if I feel like doing something I might go out and walk the dog or go down to the field and puck around. There’d obviously be a bit of running in that but I haven’t done any structured training.
“I haven’t gone out and timed myself doing anything or done any runs because as I said, I’m taking a complete break.”
However, the two-time Munster winner is excited to go back once restrictions ease and he appears as focussed as ever.
“I can’t wait to get back training because we are back in a lockdown and restricted in your movements and can’t go anywhere or meet people from other households so I am looking forward to going back.
“But, I am really forcing myself to take a break from it all because I know it will be needed.
“It is going to be a short season and there is no point needing a break in March or April and being sick of training.
“That is when you need to be really in the zone and hungry.”