John Kiely satisfied with Limerick's successful spring
By Cian O'Connell
It has been another richly rewarding spring for Limerick, who left Croke Park as Allianz Hurling League champions ensuring manager John Kiely cut a contented figure.
So impressive when securing promotion and the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2018 Limerick remain keen to enjoy this particularly productive spell.
Kiely, though, was refusing to get too carried away after a deserved victory over Waterford.
"Listen, it is satisfying to have had a solid League without being spectacular," Kiely reflected. "The younger lads need a lot of growth and time, because it just doesn’t happen in one or two or three games. I think it takes somewhere between six and 10/12 games for fellas to find their feet and be comfortable.
"And each year that fellas get two and three games under their belt in the League, it develops them a little bit and maybe get a little bit of added time in other games. It takes a lot longer than people might expect."
That is why patience is key to Limerick's approach under Kiely. "There is this expectation that young lads are just going to arrive, the same as if they come off a conveyor belt," Kiely added.
"They don’t, they are developed and growth level is important. Players grow into the standard that is required here.
"To be able to deliver consistently takes time. For us, that was as much as the League was about, giving opportunities to lads to grow through the League because it takes time."
How Limerick have dealt with the heavy burden of expectancy throughout the spring pleases Kiely.
"Overall, I think it is really satisfying for the group because there are always going to be questions as to how the group as a whole and lads, individually, would cope with what happened last year," Kiely acknowledged.
"They’ve handled it really well. They have handled themselves really well. Obviously, physically, they have looked after themselves.
"They haven’t lost sight of the fact that this is a hurling career. It is not a hurling year. There is going to be an awful lot more for them in the game and they’ve shown that they have that desire to push on.
"I think we could have been a bit more ruthless today. We should have got a few more scores at vital times in the games. We allowed the game to be hanging there for too long.
"We know the Championship will be hot and heavy when it does come. These games will be a hell of a lot tighter come Championship. There is no two ways about that. I was in Walsh Park when Clare visited really and we saw what happened there. Waterford were savage that day. There is a long year ahead, an awful long way to go."
Are Limerick a better team now compared to last August? "I think we are a stronger panel," Kiely replied. "I think we are stronger, mentally, than what we were this time 12 months ago, that bit of confidence is there. They have a lot of reference points.
"Last time out against Dublin, we had to win by grinding it out in different circumstances. We have adapted to games in a more mature fashion than we have in the past. At the end of the day, it was the League. We move on. It is the next competition now. It is hugely satisfying at the same time."