Kiely: 'The lads showed incredible resilience to keep going'
By Cian O'Connell
The resilience Limerick have demonstrated throughout the 2022 Championship has delighted manager John Kiely.
Utterly respectful of Kilkenny's talent and tradition, Kiely reflected with real satisfaction as Limerick secured a fourth All Ireland title in five years.
"Just thrilled with the performance," Kiely remarked. "We knew it was going to be a really tough game. When you are coming in like we were after winning two, it is really challenging to be ready and on the money, but we were today.
"We knew that ourselves from the minute we got into gear this morning. We met in the train, the noise levels in our group are through the rook and it is always a real barometer of where we are at as a group, particularly the player group.
"It wasn’t just the player group it was the management team as well. There was a huge amount of banter, just fun, no nerves. There was nothing to give any indication that there was any nervousness there at all. Our day went really smoothly as well. Everything was almost a minute or two ahead if you like. It is an important part of what you have to do in order to perform."
In training Kiely could sense Limerick's drive and determination. "I think the last four or five weeks, even before the Galway game – in training we were hitting levels of performance that didn’t come out in the Galway game," he added.
"We were disappointed with our level of performance in the Galway game. Individuals would have been very disappointed with their performance in the Galway game.
"But from the Tuesday night we went back (after the Galway game) I knew that night the effort they put in on a Tuesday after a Sunday game. It’s really not meant to be that kind of session. But it almost becomes that because the players are demanding it of themselves.
"So even if you are just doing a high ball drill and there are two fellows underneath it and they are wrestling each other to the ground when they get under that high ball you know they are on the money and that was the Tuesday after the Galway game.
"The boys set the tone themselves for the two weeks and it has probably been a super two weeks for all of us. Paul [Kinnerk] had a fantastic piece of work put together for them over the two weeks. Drove them hard."
Ultimately it meant Limerick were ready, willing, and able to deal with a typically defiant Kilkenny challenge.
"To go back to it, an incredible performance, a huge challenge brought by Kilkenny. We played fantastic hurling, but they still cropped up with quality scores themselves from the half-forward line, midfield.
"You could hardly believe there was only four points in it coming up to half-time. I was saying, ‘God, all the hurling we have played and Kilkenny are still there’. There was nothing in it at half-time, absolutely nothing."
Again Kiely was thrilled with a rich contribution from Limerick's substitutes.
"They came strong in the second half even though we started quite well. They came strong then, brought a huge challenge, got a great goal.
"That was a massive question: How would we react to that goal? Our response was great, we got a good point shortly after.
"The lads coming off the bench made a huge impact, Cathal O’Neill, Conor Boylan, Peter Casey, David Reidy. They all made telling contributions.
"But for me, ultimately, what was the most important piece today was how we were going to cope with the long puckouts into our half of the pitch which were going in behind our half-back. We managed in the overall to come out on top in that question.
"We were tenacious on getting ball to ground, and winning breaking ball. And there was always someone available when we won the ball, there was somebody outside you waiting for it to carry it again and take it out.
"I thought our defence was resolute and showed a level of resilience that mirrored our season because we have had a really, really tough six months. We have had setback after setback after setback.
"I could list 20 significant events that occurred during the course of the six months that were a challenge to us. The lads showed incredible resilience to keep going."
Even when Cian Lynch suffered another cruel injury, Limerick found a way to survive.
"Cian Lynch got injured last Sunday, what looked like a very serious injury at the time," Kiely added. "And the game went on. We got back into it straightaway. We drove on. They drove on at a level that was the highest I have ever seen.
"They’ve responded to everything that has happened during the course of the year. And when it came down to it, what was the most telling piece there today was the resilience that they showed when it mattered most.
"They refused to lose that game and no matter what they were going to win that ball in defence and bring it out. That was the ultimate factor in the deciding of the game."