Ger Loughnane: 'Hayes controversy will copperfasten Limerick's resolve to win fifth All-Ireland crown'

Ger Loughnane: 'Hayes controversy will copperfasten Limerick's resolve to win fifth All-Ireland crown'

Former Clare hurler and manager Ger Loughnane believes that the controversial circumstances surrounding Limerick hurler Kyle Hayes will only strengthen Limerick's desire for a record-breaking fifth All-Ireland title this year.

Hayes, a key member of the four-time All-Ireland-winning team, faces potential jail time for engaging in violence on a nightclub dance floor six years ago. Following a two-week trial at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court last December, a jury found Hayes not guilty of assault but guilty of the two counts of violent disorder. The 25-year-old is unlikely to serve a custodial sentence due to having no previous convictions.

Despite warnings from Gardaí, he admitted running away from the scene to avoid the violent scenes, leading to concerns about a possible custodial sentence.

The hearing is just four weeks before Limerick takes on Clare in their Munster Championship, and a potential jail sentence would not be ideal for Limerick's quest for another Liam McCarthy title in 2024.

However, Loughnane believes that regardless of what happens to Hayes, Limerick will use it as fuel this year in the Allianz Hurling League and Championship.

"Hayes has won four All-Irelands since this incident took place. Over that period, he has been Limerick's most consistently brilliant player. He's your go-to man in the biggest moments on the biggest occasions," said Loughnane.

"Who wouldn't regard him as indispensable? Who wouldn't defend him to the very last? That's due to his track record and what he could do this year with Limerick.

"Whatever happens next month, it'll copperfasten Limerick's resolve to win the All-Ireland. If Hayes is with them, they'll fight tooth and nail alongside him. If he's not with them, they'll take the attitude that they're doing it for Hayes.

"Now they're going to have massive motivation to win every game all the way to the All-Ireland. People say it'll disrupt Limerick; I look at it the opposite way completely.

Kyle Hayes of Limerick is in action against Cianan Fahy of Galway during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Galway and Limerick at Pearse Stadium in Galway. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images) )

"I regard them now as way more dangerous. This will have irked them, and it might be the catalyst needed to drive on to win the five-in-a-row."

Last year, Limerick lost both team captain Declan Hannon and defender Sean Finn to injuries but managed to overcome every challenge on their way to another All-Ireland crown. This year, both are expected to return, making everyone else's challenge of toppling the best team in the county more ominous than it had been.

Loughnane believes that Limerick will again be too strong for the chasing pack this year, and the returning players will have a massive effect on their title defence.

"The set-up is so professional that they take everything in stride. They lost Cian Lynch and Peter Casey, and people were saying they couldn't win an All-Ireland without them; they did," he added.

"Last year, they had Sean Finn and Declan Hannon—two of their best defenders—missing, and they still won.

"Limerick's approach from the McManuses down is so good that you have to look at them differently than the way you'd have looked at any other GAA team.

"The timing is a problem. The Clare game is massive, and it's only a few weeks after the Hayes hearing, but I expect Limerick to be fired up like never before this year."