John Kiely: 'They appreciated the time with their clubs'
By Cian O'Connell
"I think that in some respects there has been a few blessings out of this, but they are fairly few and far between," Kiely says about the value and importance of sport in these deeply uncertain times.
The Limerick manager, busy preparing for Sunday's Munster Championship and Allianz Hurling League Final against Clare, is adamant that valuable lessons were learned in 2020.
"One of the blessings was obviously that the inter-county player got to spend an entire summer with their clubs," Kiely continues.
"That had a huge spin off in so many different communities and clubs. For the players themselves it was a really good grounding exercise getting them back into their clubs for a protracted period of time, with no distractions of inter-county.
"I think that was a really great by product of the situation we were in."
Throughout the world, GAA supporters included, people have been forced to deal with new realities.
"I suppose sport in general, I don't think you'd have to travel too far down the street to meet somebody who misses sport or misses sport as it was or watching events," Kiely admits.
"The Premiership without all the fans watching soccer matches, Liverpool winning their title and no fans at the games, horse racing taking place with nobody at it, boxing matches with nobody at it, golf events with nobody at it, across the world, tennis events across the world with nobody at it, our own Gaelic Games with nobody at it.
"It is anti sport if you like. Sport is all about the community, the people interested in that particular sport. It is about getting together, celebrating, enjoying, competing in it.
"Competing with their lives for it, we have missed all of that, but we just can't have it right now unfortunately. That is just the way it is. By Jesus when we do get it back next year Please God we will never forget the value of it, I can tell you that much.
"For the moment we have to live without it, that is it. It will be different, but we have to accept the fact that it is going to be different."
Kiely acknowledges that it has been a testing time as an inter-county manager.
“Well listen, we left our players continue with some distance training in March/April, up until early May even in fact," Kiely states.
"That was a challenge, that was a mental challenge and our players responded to it extremely well and worked very, very hard."
Other little projects were embraced. "We took a break then for a couple of weeks and did some charity work for Milford Hospice and we really enjoyed that, we had great fun with that," Kiely adds.
"All the players really bought into it and we raised a nice few quid for Milford Hospice and that was something we were really, really happy with. "They’re our partner charity for 2020, we’re continuing to support them in their endeavours and then we took a break. We switched off completely from inter-county for the summer, let the lads back to their clubs."
It was a rewarding stint for all concerned according to Kiely.
"They really enjoyed that, they appreciated the time with their clubs," Kiely admits.
"We didn’t ask them to come back until after they were finished in their entirety so the lads that got to the finals didn’t come back until the finals were over and we don’t regret that decision.
"That was a really good decision on our part and I think the players really appreciated it. It’s made getting back together all the more enjoyable and pleasurable.
"We’re enjoying the lovely autumnal evenings, the lovely freshness in the air and there’s been a few great evenings and we’re very, very happy to just get out on the field and hurl with a bit of ball, work hard and look forward, please God, to a couple of good games in the weeks ahead and seeing those jerseys on all the county teams back on the pitch again in the weeks ahead."