Limerick manager John Kiely will not accept any slacking off from his players as he plots to defend their All-Ireland, Munster and Division 1 titles.
After yesterday’s decision, collective training has been pushed back to February 1 with the first round of the Allianz Hurling League possibly commencing at the start of March.
Irrespective of changes, should Limerick reach a third consecutive Division 1 final, it’s still likely it will take place two weeks before the start of the Munster senior hurling championship in April or May.
Speaking to the, Kiely insists he isn’t perturbed by any quick turnaround that might be presented to his team. “I’m not in the slightest bit concerned about it. The boys had a long enough break in 2020 – if any fella rocks on telling me he’s tired, I’ll swing for him,” he laughs. “I don’t think there’s going to be any issue with fatigue.
“We will be looking to develop more players through the league. We won’t be killing fellas either but they will be getting their requisite amount of game-time to get them prepared for the Championship where our main focus will be. The lads are enjoying their hurling at the moment, they’re enjoying their time within the group and any time they are away from the group from a prolonged period of time they generally come back champing at the bit to get going again. So I think they will enjoy this break and we’ll all look forward to 2021.”
Kiely commended his players, especially those who were asked to fill new roles in replacing injured team-mates. He couldn’t say enough about how Dan Morrissey and Barry Nash took to filling the spots previously filled by Mike Casey and Richie English in the full-back line.
“We did suffer some cruel blows. We lost Richie English earlier in the season. We lost Shane Dowling at the outset of the Championship and we lost Mikey Casey midway through it. Those are heavy blows to take.
“The way Dan and Barry went about their business to take up those roles for the Championship that was an incredible achievement for them to find a level of understanding and performance with Seán (Finn) in that full-back line. That was a huge challenge but they went about it quietly and methodically and the unity of the group really shone out in how the three of those went about their business and that was very important.”
Kyle Hayes’ smooth return to the half-back line was just as pivotal, Kiely highlighted.
“Kyle was obviously a very important player for us at 11 over the last three seasons so to take him and place him in the wing-back position was another massive decision on our part and one that wasn’t taken lightly. It really showed how much we felt the likes of Gearóid (Hegarty) and Tom (Morrissey) and David Reidy around that part of the field could make up for Kyle’s absence. And just like ’18, the lads coming off the bench made an impact every day and that was another massive factor.”
So while it was felt Limerick were playing within themselves up to the final win over Waterford, Kiely interpreted it as a team coping with what was put in front of them.
“I wouldn’t describe our performances as lacking consistency or lacking something. What you saw was a team who had substantial challenges put in its way not just externally from the oppositions who were coming at us hard and fast and with quality but also internally with the injuries and retirement that we had and asking players to adjust to positions that are very challenging.”
As for their composure in the final quarters of their five Championship wins, Kiely put that down to their concentration levels.
“I just really see the players not differentiating between the first minute of the game and the last minute. They see each play if you like as a piece of work that’s there to be got at and maximised in terms of its output.
“That in itself generates a very clear focus on the basics. They really focused on their job whether it was trying to overturn a puck-out or two there against Galway or just securing ball and continuing to run off the shoulder and create a bit of space and take on shots.
“It wasn’t necessarily that they had to depend on any psychological strength or anything like that. The pressure our panellists put on the lads who start on a more regular basis was huge.
Kiely accepts the rising number of Covid cases is troubling but is looking ahead to the new year with general optimism.
“I know it’s hard to see them at the moment but getting people vaccinated and family and work life can slowly but surely resume to a normal level and that goes for sport too.
“Those are great things to look forward to. I sincerely hope that we can make that type of progress over the early part of the year and please God by the summer time we will back in stadia with plenty of people roaring and shouting like mad.”