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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018
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'You were heading out into the back yard to look up at the stars and figure out the solution to some problem'

The Limerick manager reflects on the journey that brought them to Liam MacCarthy Cup glory.

John Kiely celebrates with Limerick supporters at the Gaelic Grounds last night.
John Kiely celebrates with Limerick supporters at the Gaelic Grounds last night.
Image: TommyDickson/INPHO

LAST NIGHT JOHN Kiely got to come home to Limerick and celebrate in familiar environs.

The night before he got to appreciate a different occasion in the Citywest Hostel. The Limerick manager had seen his share of Sunday All-Ireland post-mortems, this one was different and worth savouring.

“We’ve been through the crappy banquets. Where you have nothing to bring back to the banquet and everybody is very disappointed and it’s a hard occasion.

“So it was fantastic to have the real deal and have that special occasion where you come into that room with what everybody had come to see.

“There was four tables from my own parish in Galbally. That’s a lot, that’s 40 people who wanted to be there with us and share that occasion. And of course your family are all there. They know what’s been put into it.

“They’ve heard the door opening at one or two o’clock in the morning when you were heading out into the back yard to look up at the stars and figure out the solution to some problem that you were worried about.

“So yeah, it was great to have our family and our club mates there. Even just for us as a group to sit down together last night and dance if off, if you like.”

John Kiely with his daughter Aoife John Kiely and his daughter Aoife in the Gaelic Grounds last night. Source: TommyDickson/INPHO

Sunday may have been a breakthrough moment for Limerick hurling but Kiely is not interested in it becoming the closing note of their story.

“I said it after the game, this is not the end. It’s the beginning. I’m just so thrilled for all the young kids that are at home this morning in Limerick because that’s the real dividend from this.

“That spin-off for the thousands of youngsters that are going to go around with hurleys this week, next week and the week after, dreaming of being Cian Lynchs and Shane Dowlings and Peter Caseys.

“And not thinking they should be Seamie Callanan or Patrick Horgan or Henry Shefflin, even though they’re great players.

“They have their own standards and their own heroes.”

The theme of standards is one that Kiely returns to. It was an area he insisted on improvements in as Limerick began the long road of preparations that brought them to All-Ireland final Sunday.

“The backroom team as a whole, the standards rose. That’s why we did the boxing because the previous year the standards were allowed to let slip because fellas weren’t challenging enough whereas this year the standards were set because of the boxing. There was no drop.

“I don’t think there was a single session I went home unhappy about. We simplified things, took out a lot of the rubbish that was in there.

“We kept communication to a minimum instead of bombarding these lads. They’re only 20, 21, 22. Kyle Hayes doesn’t want 20 texts a day, he just wants to know where he is to be on a Tuesday and a Friday – ‘that’s it, boss, leave me alone’.

Aaron Gillane with Kyle Hayes Aaron Gillane and Kyle Hayes celebrating Limerick's success at Heuston Station. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“I didn’t speak to the players this week on my own. Players need to be left alone. If I ring them, they could spend four or five hours and they’re thinking about what the conversation was about.

“So that’s a whole load of bloody energy wasted. At the end of the day, you need to trust them to go out on the field and do the job and play his part on the field, which he does.”

Players pose for a selfie taken by Cian Lynch Limerick players celebrating in the Gaelic Grounds last night. Source: Cian Lynch/INPHO

The demands in shaping a team to win an All-Ireland senior title are obvious. Kiely is grateful to the staff in Abbey CBS in Tipperary Town, where he is principal, for helping him achieve that.

“Obviously it does have an impact. There’s no getting away from that. But I’ve huge support from the board of management.

“The staff are incredible in terms of their support. I’ve actually only taken off two days in two years – two full days where I actually wasn’t in school.

“You’re there until half four, five o’clock. Then you’re gone out the door like a bullet to get to Rathkeale or the Gaelic Grounds.

“It’s just a busy day. That’s all. I’m not the only one in the country that’s busy. It’s just the responsibility because when you get to training, you have to be on point.

“Paul Kinnerk needs to know how many players are there for training so he can design the session around those numbers.

“Listen, we managed it quite well this year. We didn’t allow the phones to take over. Sometimes the phones can take over and you can do all your business over the phone.

“Young fellas, they see me every day on the corridors, in the class rooms, in the office, out of the pitch. For kids to understand that the teacher they know or knew can be involved in such a special thing, that’s great for them to figure out.

“They know I work hard at it. They know I’m in there every morning. They know I’m last in there most evenings. So they know if you work hard, good things will happen.”

 

After the semi-final victory over Cork, it was striking how Kiely immediately sought to shift the focus to getting right for the final rather than basking in the glow of this sucecss.

“On a personal level after the semi-final was a very difficult situation. You’re being pulled and dragged, left, right and centre, fired into a room full of reporters and I’m a fighter.

“So when I’m put into a corner, I will fight. That’s the bottom line. I’m a protector, I’m a teacher, I’m a parent. I wanted to protect the people that mean most to me and I was protecting the Limerick players.

“I do know the following day by eleven o’clock in the morning, I had six players who had been individually contacted by various media outlets. So they were confused. Once they pushed back, that was the end of it.

“So it did help an awful lot that we were left to do what we wanted to do for the three weeks and that’s continuing to do what we were doing all year.”

He still managed to savour the build-up without being able to fully immerse himself in it. Over the next while, Kiely will seek to soak up the joy generated in Limerick by this win.

“My own village at home in Galbally was nuts. I haven’t been in the village for very long, I’ve gone down for a haircut or a newspaper or whatever it might be.

“But I’m looking forward to going down there tomorrow or the day after and spend a few hours and enjoy what they enjoyed for the last few weeks.

“It’s hugely important because I know the benefit it brings to a whole county, where it be a county community or a village community or a town community or a school community. These things lift people and give people a great sense of satisfaction and pride and happiness and they need it.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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