John Kiely: 'We had a really, really tough six months. We had setback after setback'

Kiely revealed two key players picked up knocks at training on Friday night, just days after they lost Cian Lynch.

Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates after the game.
Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates after the game.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

OF THE FOUR All-Ireland wins he has now preceded over, John Kiely rated the latest one as “absolutely” his most satisfying. 

He became only the second manager after Brian Cody to win the Liam MacCarthy Cup four times, but admitted Limerick were severely tested in campaign.

Tight wins over Clare, Galway and now Kilkenny saw Limerick go to well time after time and come up trumps. Injury to talisman Cian Lynch threatened to derail their campaign.

He had only returned from a torn hamstring when he went over on his ankle last weekend in training, ruling the two-time Hurler of the Year out of the final.

To add to Limerick’s concerns, Kiely revealed that two further players went down with injuries on their last training session before today. 

“Our defence was resolute and showed a level of resilience that mirrored our season because we have had a really, really tough six months,” he said. 

“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.

“Cian Lynch got injured last Sunday, what looked like a very serious injury at the time. 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.”

Expanding on Lynch’s injury he said: “After a ten week hamstring injury he gets back and plays in the semi-final for 20 minutes. And on that Sunday morning he was absolutely electric, he was winning ball left, right and centre. He just went to make a tackle and got caught awkwardly.

“That’s a devastating blow for any team to take, but for the group to respond the way they did to his injury, for him, and to play like they did for the following 20 minutes afterwards while he is taken away in the back of a jeep.

“That’s hard, (when) somebody you are that close to has had a devastating injury, you are there to witness it but you still have to drive on and literally put yourself in his shoes that you could be the next one to go down.”

jp-mcmanus-and-cian-lynch JP McManus and Cian Lynch after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Then further disaster threatened to strike when more injury concerns, although the players recovered in time to start the final. 

“We suffered two more injuries at training on Friday night. You’d say how could you possibly get injured on a Friday night in training, but two men went down, significant players on the team. Kyle was injured with hamstrings I’d say a number of times during the course of the year. We couldn’t get form at the start of the year.

“We couldn’t find any degree of fluency or flow during the early part of the year. And you’re wondering when are we going to turn this corner? Are we ever going to turn this corner? Is it within us to turn this corner? 

“They’ve responded to everything that has happened during the course of the year. And when it came down 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 ultimate factor in the deciding of the game.

“Resilience is obviously when people can cope with adversity – and we’ve experienced a tremendous amount of adversity over the years. There’s an incredible bond between these players; there’s a tremendous trust; and they mean the world to each other.

“And when you’re in the melting pot out there, and those balls are raining down on top of you, and you’ve got to take on to get that breaking ball or to catch that ball or break that ball, be available for a pass, take on that shot … people around you, you have to trust them and trust them with literally everything you have in you. And that unity and togetherness and trust that they have, that’s what makes them what they are.”

Lynch was the final person to speak to the group on Friday night and he encouraged them to enjoy the game.

“He spoke to the group, finished off our piece on Friday night. He’s involved in everything we do; he’s our vice-captain so he’s there always, at all times, and the boys are all there for him as well obviously.

“Because it’s hugely disappointing for him to have had the season he’s had – sent off in the Fitzgibbon Cup final, tears his hamstring badly, misses ten weeks, comes back, does all the rehab, gets himself back in a position to play in an All-Ireland final having had the year he had.

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“For him to experience an absolutely freak injury in training, seven days out … like, you’re not going to be racing down the road into a bookies when you have that kind of luck for yourselves.

“So, listen, it was heart-breaking for him, everybody was so disappointed for him. But being the man he was, he absolutely committed to everything we did all week, and the boys committed to making sure that they weren’t going to let him be the reason that people might say, ‘That’s why you lost that final.’”

Kiely was encouraged by the “noise levels” among the squad was high when they got the train to Dublin this morning.

“It is always a real barometer of where we are at as a group, particularly the player group, he said. 

“It wasn’t just the player group it was the management team as well. There were 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.”

To beat Kilkenny in the final made the victory even more special. 

“It means the world, we have such respect for Kilkenny and what they’ve done, what Brian has done with the various groups he has had over the last 24 years,” added Kiely. 

“Their record is unparalleled and it will take generations for it to be anywhere chased by anybody, and it probably never will.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Croke Park

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