Portumna’s Heagney ready to face his native Limerick

Jerome O’Connell


Jerome O’Connell

Gareth Heagney, Portumna, in action against Johnny Coen, Loughrea
LIMERICK may be without an All-Ireland club title but one Limerick man has three winners medals to his credit.

LIMERICK may be without an All-Ireland club title but one Limerick man has three winners medals to his credit.

This Saturday Gareth Heagney and his Portumna colleagues continue on their quest for a fourth Tommy Moore Cup in the last decade.

Heagney is a South Liberties man - attended Donoughmore National School before completing his education in Ardscoil Ris.

“I left Ardscoil Ris in 2001 and it was the year after that my family moved up to Portumna, where my father was originally from,” Heagney explained to LeaderSport this week.

“I remember I was in the stands watching when Portumna won their first county title in 2003 because I was still waiting for my transfer to go though. The following spring I was on the panel for the All-Ireland semi-final against Dunloy,” he recalled.

His first success in the blue and gold of the Galway side came with the 2004 county title win.

He progressed to win three All-Ireland clubs titles at wing back - 2006, 2008 and 2009.

But in those early years he was a regular back in Limerick.

“I hurled U-21 with Limerick for three years - we lost to Waterford the first year, to Cork in Cork the second year and then we were beaten by Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds the final year.”

His performances for club and the county underage sides brought him to the attention of the Limerick senior management.

“I was in under Padjoe Whelehan and Joe McKenna,” he pointed out.

“I was brought in under Padjoe but with the travelling to training, the hurling with the club in Galway and work I just felt I couldn’t give the necessary commitment and I had to bow out.”

“That’s a big regret to be honest - at the time the likes of Andrew O’Shaughnessy and Brian Murray were still there and I had hurled all the way up along underage with the likes of them.”

Heagney, now principal in Sixmilebridge National School, is now very much immersed in Portumna.

Married locally, he is involved in coaching in the GAA club as well as holding his place on the senior team at corner back. But he doesn’t forget Limerick.

“All my hurling was nurtured in South Liberties. It’s fabulous to see all the development they have done in the club there in recent years and fellas like Shane O’Neill, Tom Ryan and Barry Nash are now on county panels,” said Heagney.

“No one is as happy as me to see Limerick hurling on the up but of course I do hope to stop the momentum on Saturday,” he laughed.

“At the same time when the Portumna lads are involved with Galway I would be happy for them.”

What of a Galway/Limerick championship tie?

“I would be torn to be honest,” he said.

This Saturday, for Heagney there will be one ot two familiar faces within Na Piarsaigh.

“Kieran Breen was in my class in Ardscoil Ris. We played a bit of Harty Cup but it was all the likes of St Colmans of Fermoy and St Flannans of Ennis at the time. We did get to a Rice Cup final when I was in first or second year with the like of Peter Russell on the team. It was Derek Larkin and Liam Kennedy who were the hurling teachers at the time,” recalled the Portumna corner back.

Despite his side’s record in the competition, Heagney was quick to play down their chances.

“It’s new territory in a way for us. We now have new lads on the team, never mind the panel,” he said referencing back to their last All-Ireland club win of 2009.

“We are trying to relive the past in one way - It’s a big challenge, one of the biggest we have faced when you look at their team and all their inter-county players.”

“Preparations have been hindered as well with the weather so we have been doing a lot of indoor work and training on astro turf pitches. We have been out of action for a long time as well (Galway county final was October 28) - people can look at that two ways and say we should be fresh but also the games could stand to Na Piarsaigh”.