Limerick skipper Declan Hannon leads the All-Ireland champions into the 2019 Allianz Hurling League knowing that a new challenge lies ahead of them.
Despite climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand in September last year to collect the Liam MacCarthy Cup, 2019 marks the first time that Hannon will play in the top tier of the Hurling league.
“It’s a massive test, since I came in with the seniors, this is our first year in Division 1A which was a bad state of affairs, but it’s a new challenge and something we are very much looking forward to.
“There might be a bit more pressure, bigger crowds, more tense and stuff like that but again, these are the games you want to be playing in, you want to go to Kilkenny and Thurles and down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“It’s great for supporters as well they are mad for the games down in Limerick. So, we’re looking forward to Wexford and then Tipperary the week after, it’s two very very tough games to start the league, and it’ll tell us where we are and how much work we have to do.”
Having ended a 45-year long famine last year, spirits have been high in Limerick since that August victory over Galway. However, Hannon knows that the team are currently behind the rest of the top sides in terms of fitness, but they are determined to raise standards once more in 2019.
“We played Tipp in the Munster League in December and they gave us a bit of a lesson that brought us quickly back down to earth and showed us how far we are behind at the minute.
“But the motivation is always there to go back and train hard and get ready for the league and Championship.
“It’s not that different to be honest to other years. I’ve seen when there was a bit more pressure on us. We’ll focus on ourselves and focus on training and getting ready for the league, take it game by game, training by training, and push ourselves hard to get the standards even higher than last year.”
Despite the last two Liam MacCarthy Cup winners coming out of Division 1B, Hannon feels that in order maximise this Limerick sides potential, they need to be playing top-tier hurling.
“Even though last year we were in Division 1B and ended up winning the All-Ireland and Galway were in 1B last year and got to the All-Ireland final, I think for Limerick we need to be up in the top tier with the top teams.
“It sets you up better for the Championship. We did well in the league last year, we’d Galway in Salthill, then we played Clare and Tipperary in the league quarters and semis. They were big games for us and good preparation for the Championship. So we have those games week in week out now and they can only aid you and give you a better idea of where you are.”
Hannon’s side travels to Wexford Park on Sunday to take on Davy Fitzgerald’s men. The two sides met at this stage of the league two seasons ago with Wexford coming out victorious. The sides also came face to face last year in the Fenway Classic in Boston, a game that had a fair bit of bite to it.
“It’s the first round of the league, everyone’s on a level playing field.
“We played them two years ago in the first round of the league and they beat us by two or three points.
“Wexford is a tough place to go, we played them in the Fenway Classic in Boston and there was a bit of bite to that going over there so, I’d say it could be a tense enough affair down there. But, we’re looking forward to it, it’s a great way to start the season.”
eir Sport Allianz Leagues Coverage Announcement, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin 15/1/2019
eir sport have announced details of its Allianz Leagues coverage for 2019, while also confirming it will broadcast two games from the Lidl Ladies National Football League. In total eir sport will broadcast fifteen live games in the coming months with up to three live matches available to GAA fans some weekends. The coverage begins on January 26th on the home of live GAA on Saturday nights under lights