John Kiely wants Limerick to seize opportunity
By Cian O’Connell
John Kiely pauses briefly when the question is asked. Was Limerick's defeat against Clare in the 2017 Munster Senior Hurling Championship his toughest defeat as a manager?
"It probably wasn't, I think the game against Wexford last year in the League was probably the toughest because it made such an impact on the League overall," Kiely reflects with admirable honesty.
Following the first weekend of the League in 2017 Limerick were under pressure. The implications of that loss to Wexford were severe.
"It probably left a sour taste for us for months afterwards," Kiely acknowledges. "We were in control of that game with 15 minutes or 20 minutes to go and we let it slip.
"It had a significant impact on us really and that is why it was all the more important for us to bounce back in the League this year. That left a mark on us last year, but it is well passed now, it was well out of the system."
Limerick realised their spring objective by securing promotion this year, another important itch scratched. "We have managed to get ourselves out of 1B and into 1A for next year which is something to look forward to next spring," Kiely admits.
"As regards Championship we said at the start of the year we would be judged upon the results of the competitive matches that we play. That hasn't changed and it won't change.
"We will judge our season on the results of our competitive games this year. That is the way it is, we haven't lost a match in 70 minutes this year. Hopefully we can try to keep that going."
With confidence increasing and belief generated Limerick look well placed to make an impact in Munster. Kiely accepts that maintaining momentum is key, but without losing focus.
"It is yeah, but it is just another phase in the year," Kiely says. "I don't see this as a restart of the season either even though we had a break for two weeks. I don't see it as a restart, it is about continuity, a building block from one phase of the season to the next.
"So we have gone from pre-season, Munster League, 1B, concluding stages of the National League, now we are on to the Munster stages of the Round Robin. That is the next phase and our job is to try to quality for the subsequent phase after that."
Six Na Piarsaigh players returned to the Limerick fold after the League. "They are integrated in now, we had them in for a week or 10 days before we took the club break," Kiely remarks.
"We had a couple of days together in camp. Listen, these players are all after being on the Limerick panel for the past number of years anyway and they know all the other players extremely well. Everybody knows how they play, it is us figuring out if a player has something to offer immediately or at a later juncture. That will become clear in the next number of weeks.
"A lot will depend as well on how we fare injury wise, keeping players fit and healthy coming up to the Championship and during it as to who is going to contribute.
"I'd be happy enough with the way things have gone so far since they have come back in. They have put a lot of energy and effort into it."
It has been a decade filled with underage promise for Limerick. The Academy system was rewarded with two All Ireland Under 21 wins in three years, Ardscoil Ris are perennial Harty Cup contenders, LIT, UL, and Mary I have been backboned by talented performers from the county. Are Limerick edging closer to the ultimate honour: hoisting the Liam MacCarthy Cup?
"There is no doubt that these lads have been successful, be it at inter-county level underage, minor or Under 21, or Colleges with Ardscoil Ris or UL and Mary I and Na Piarsaigh/Kilmallock at club level," said Kiely.
"Their success is obviously a huge help in the journey of a player being able to be successful at inter-county level. It has to, they have won quite a lot at underage.
"Ultimately for them as players their sights will be set on success at senior level. They won't be happy with their own careers bar if they achieve some form of success at senior level. For me it is about getting a group of players that will give themselves an opportunity at some point to be successful.
"If we end up in a position where they have an opportunity to be successful it is up to them then at that stage to seize the moment, to take it. Nobody has a crystal ball to say we are definitely going to be successful.
"Your only hope in sport is to give yourself the opportunity to be successful. Our hope is that over the not too distant future we will give ourselves opportunities to take a measure of success along the way."