Gearoid Hegarty challenges Shane O’Brien to build on Munster Final heroics:

By John Harrington

Gearoid Hegarty has challenged his young Limerick hurling team-mate Shane O’Brien to build on his Munster Final heroics.

At the age of just 19 and on his first senior championship start the young Kilmallock man produced a remarkably mature performance that saw him score two points from play and lead the Limerick attack with great physicality and bravery.

“It was unreal,” says Hegarty. “I love any young lad that comes in to our panel and gives us what he has given and helps us to achieve what we want to achieve it’s obviously brilliant. It’s a team game and we always just say you need to do your job and in fairness he was obviously excellent the last day.

“His challenge now the next day will be to see can he improve upon what he’s given so far. But as for his performance in the Munster Final…he turned 20 the other day and I was so far off playing inter-county hurling at that age. I was nowhere near it whatsoever.

“It’s a credit to him and it’s a credit to all his coaches up along. It’s a credit to the underage system that we have in Limerick with the Academy. It’s a massive credit to him to be able to be at that level at such a young age but the challenge for him now is to see how far he can bring it. “

Usually when a young forward breaks onto a senior county team they operate on the periphery winning a break here and snaffling a point or two there while they learn their apprenticeship.

What marks O’Brien out as something a bit special is that he immediately looks comfortable being a focal point in attack for Limerick.

His size, strength, and ball-winning ability gives him the physical tools to do that job, but it also requires a lot of self-belief and mental strength for someone so young to take on that responsibility.

“I’m not sure but he might think it has taken him a while to get to where he is at,” says Hegarty.

“He’s been with us now since the start of last year and obviously he was brilliant for Ard Scoil up along and the main man at U20s and I’m sure he’d probably be disappointed with how the U20s went this year.

“It’s all relative for everybody, but in terms of the level he’s at in terms of strength and conditioning for such a young lad to be so big and strong and be able to withstand 70 minutes of Munster Championship hurling and be able to hold his own, it’s a credit to the work he’s done to get to the point he’s at so far.

“I’m delighted for him. A 19-year old making his debut (first start) in a Munster Final is an incredibly tough task in itself. To give the performance he gave…when I came off the pitch I didn’t know I was getting man of the match because Shane was my man of the match to be honest.

“People only see the Munster Hurling Final day and seeing this 19-year-old young fella giving the performance he gives and people think everything must be rosy but there are plenty of bad days along the way I’m sure he’s experienced.

“You just have to learn from these experiences and he’s doing pretty well so far but the challenge for him the next day is to keep backing it up as it is for all of us.”