John Kiely couldn’t hide his delight after steering Limerick to another All-Ireland title.
You could not blame him.
The school principal originally resolved to get involved in Limerick hurling after attending the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary, when the Treaty suffered a 23-point drubbing at the hands of the Premier.
Fast-forward 11 years, and in four seasons in charge Kiely has led Limerick to two National Leagues, two Munster Championships, and now two All-Ireland titles.
“Incredible Just incredible,” he grinned, speaking to Sky Sports after the 11-point final win over Waterford.
“I’m just so proud of the lads, the effort they put in since last November, 12 months ago. It’s been a 13-month campaign really. They’ve worked so, so hard. We have all had to endure the year that it’s been.”
He pinpointed the manner in which his team handled the lockdown as key to their success in recent weeks.
“We decided at the outset once the break came, that it was the team that was going to cope best with the break, that was probably going to see it out towards the end,” he explained. “And I thought we coped with the break really, really well. We worked so, so hard on our own at home.
“Last year we were so disappointed not to make it to the final. And that was really disappointing for us. But they knuckled down straight away, and they were relentless throughout the year. They were relentless. It was wave after wave, game after game. They were so determined, and there’s a fantastic spirit, a fantastic bond within the group. They’re such a tightknit group, and I’m very fortunate to work with them. It’s incredible.
“We’ve worked so, so hard. Particularly this year with the Covid side of it. We took over 2,000 temperature checks to ensure that every single night when we came to training, everybody was healthy and well. Only once did we have a fail, and that player had to get in his car and drive home. So we’ve worked extremely hard, and I think they’ve got the fruit of their labour here this evening.”
Cahill gracious in defeat
Kiely’s opposite number Liam Cahill admitted Waterford were outclassed by a superior team.
“[I’m] bitterly disappointed,” said the Déise boss. “No complaints. The better team won to be fair.
“I expected a real response at half-time. I thought it gave us an opportunity to create the few things that were going wrong for us. Limerick started the second half a lot better than we did, and they gathered real momentum from there, and we were always chasing the match after that.
“I’m disappointed for [the Waterford fans]. I’m sorry that myself and the team couldn’t deliver. But I can assure you, we will come again from this and we’ll do our utmost to be back here again [next year].”
The Tipp native lamented missed opportunities, as the Déise failed to score from seven goal attempts.
“When you get to an All-Ireland final, you have to be putting away chances,” he said.
“We did get one or two genuine goal chances that we didn’t take. For us to win today, we needed to be scoring 2-22, 2-23 to have any chance. When you don’t score goals in an All-Ireland, you’re under pressure. That for me was a worry.
“We have to assess our year, dust ourselves down and go again. It’s as simple as that. Try and unearth new talent; there’s plenty of good young hurlers in Waterford. We need to get them into our regime and look to strengthen our panel.
“These guys have given me massive commitment all year, they have learned a lot from the year as well, and they got a real good handle on what we were about. So I’d be hopeful that when we get back to the training field in January or February that there’ll be a bounce in our step to go again.”
Limerick players pleased to lift mood of the county
“It’s an unbelievable All-Ireland to win,” outlined Treaty captain Declan Hannon. “There’s been so much despair in the county and country this year.
“I’ve neighbours in Adare that are no longer with us. I’m thinking of them today. They would love to be here, but sadly they’re in heaven looking down on us.
“I’m so proud of the boys, that hopefully for their families, it has given them a ray of light.”
And the 28-year-old made it clear that this triumph is just as sweet as any other, despite the unique and eerie circumstances under which it was achieved.
“That Liam MacCarthy Cup is the same. That All-Ireland medal is the same. So we are absolutely delighted,” he said.
“If you asked me 10 years ago, would I have two All-Ireland medals in three years, I don’t know. So we’re just delighted.
“It’s after making my Christmas.”
Cian Lynch delivered a similar message.
“It’s been a long year for a lot of people,” said the Patrickswell star.
“I want to take this moment to remember the people we’ve lost as a result of the virus, or as a result of other things. This is what’s special about Ireland, the GAA. It’s all we have at the end of the day. It’s all we come out here and play for: enjoyment.”
Watch Inside The Game on Wednesday evening on Sky Sports Mix, as we review the hurling final and look ahead to the football decider.
Source: Read Full Article