“It justified all the sacrifices made” | Barry Hennessy on retirement, success & the importance of speaking out

The Kilmallock native called time on a glittering career in late 2022 after a phenomenal decade of success with Limerick.

A stalwart of Limerick’s three-in-a-row All-Ireland winning squad hung up his boots in the wake of the most recent national success as Barry Hennessy called time on an illustrious career that witnessed the good, bad and incredible of hurling in the county over the last two decades.

Undoubtedly, the best back up keeper in the country, the Kilmallock native drove his peers to new heights whilst also experiencing a high level with his club with whom he featured in an All-Ireland club final back in 2014.

The following year he was named from the start for the Munster Championship in the wake of an injury to the ever-present Nickie Quaid.

Hennessy was as good as he was reliable in the intervening years, regularly donning the #1 jersey in the league whilst always ready to go when required.

But in December, Hennessy announced his retirement from the intercounty game to a huge response from the general public as he initially questioned his decision as he explained on the most recent episode of Treaty Talk.

“Emotional. Ah no it’s been great, it was a novelty at the start and it was nice to get all the nice messages from people but once the games started back I was thinking did I make the right decision or not but it’s been great.

“All you want when you finish your career is to have the respect of your teammates and management and to have got that as well as everything else from supporters and friends and family, it was nice, a nice touch. It justified all the sacrifices made over the years.”

Hennessy came into the panel in 2010, making his debut in the Waterford Crystal Cup against UL. He didn’t make the cut for the championship but was back in 2013, this time missing out on Limerick’s first Munster championship win in seventeen years.

TJ Ryan recalled him for the 2014 campaign and he remained ever since. Yet considering all he has won, a first piece of silverware didn’t come until the 2018 All-Ireland final, backboned by John Kiely’s U21 winners from three years previously.

Since then, the squad has amassed four All-Ireland titles to coincide with as many Munster titles as Hennessy praised the attitude of his teammates.

“You’ve an incredibly driven group, lads want to win as much as possible whether its training matches, or even cards on the train going up, lads are just extremely driven and there’s a great collective and bond there. The lads want to do the best for the man beside them and there’s no “I” or “me” and the lads have completely bought into that. That shines through on the field. Lads are willing to empty the tank for each other.”

27 February 2022; Limerick goalkeeper Barry Hennessy during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Limerick and Cork at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Prior to his retirement, Hennessy joined Alan O’Mara on the Players Voice podcast to discuss an eating disorder he had suffered from and the goalkeeper was keen to discuss his experience in the hope of helping anyone in a similar situation as he explained the importance of speaking out.

“To have an open dialogue with someone, whether it’s a friend, a trained professional or anyone you feel you can trust enough to talk to, have an open dialogue with. After the last few months and the exposure it’s gotten, you still find it hard to articulate your feelings. You’d nearly get a little embarassed when someone says it to you or fair play to you for saying it.

“But look, just wanted to raise a bit of awareness around it and if it helped one person then it was a massive help on my part. If it helps someone great but just reach out and have that initial conversation because stubborness was the thing that stopped me. I was too proud to speweak to someone about it for fear of what they would think at the time.

“Just speak to someone because there’s incredible services there.”

Rounding out the conversation, Hennessy was asked a number of quickfire question concluding with the best player he has played with. The Kilmallock man plucked for a fellow retiree Seamus Hickey firstly and then a close friend and colleague Nickie Quaid.

“Best player I’ve played with, that’s a hard question, I’ve played with so many great players. I always had a soft spot for Seamus Hickey, his application and dedication was phenomenal and Nickie too. Two fellas that if you asked what a Limerick hurler looked like, it was Seamus and Nickie. Two lads that epitomized what it is to be a Limerick hurler on and off the field.”

Hennessy confirmed his plans to continue with Kilmallock as they look to win back the Limerick SHC title they ceded to Na Piarsaigh later this year.

But while getting out to see his former teammates is still “raw,” the plan is to get himself and his children to the stands to support Limerick “once the championship rolls around.”

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