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'I didn’t go home with a very sweet taste in my mouth after that experience and it’s not one I want to go back to'

The Limerick boss on the challenges facing the champions this summer.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THEY REACHED THE championship summit in dazzling fashion last August and backed that up with their output in the league in March.

The upshot for John Kiely as his Limerick hurlers start out on the 2019 championship road on Sunday is his team are concrete favourites to repeat last year’s trick by the close of this season.

They look to have greater weapons in their armoury entering this year’s Munster championship and have the experience of accumulating silver.

Does that all increase the burden of pressure? It’s a scenario Kiely will gladly accept when he casts his mind back to his opening season in charge as they were left in a glum mood in early July when Kilkenny nudged them towards the 2017 exit door.

“That’s just the way it is. We have to cope with that, but that was the whole point. We always wanted to be successful, and now we are successful, or we’ve had a taste of it, we know it’s a hell of a lot better than 2017.

“I didn’t go home with a very sweet taste in my mouth after that experience and it’s not one I want to go back to.”

Limerick supporters applaud their players Limerick supporters applaud their players after the loss to Kilkenny in 2017. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Limerick face Cork in their seasonal opener on Sunday before a rapid burst of three games in 15 days will be unleashed towards them in June.

The schedule may be perceived as gruelling but Kiely questions that school of thought.

“It is what you make of it, and I know that having spoken to people involved in league of Ireland soccer.

“They play maybe five games in 20 days or seven games in 20 days in Dundalk’s case maybe. They could be involved in Europe, the FAI Cup or the league and they only get three or four days to recover.

“You tell them boys that they have a week to recover from a match and they’ll say “this is an inordinate amount of time, we don’t scarcely need it,” so it is what you make of it.

“They are playing 90 minutes and only have panels of 16, 17 or 18 players. They often only have 14 or 15 fit players.

“It’s all about perception and it really is what you make of it. If you make it out to be an insurmountable task, it will be an insurmountable task.

“The challenge is laid down, we have three games to play in the back end of the championship, we have a strong panel and we’ll maybe use the panel a bit better and wiser than we did last year.”

John Kiely brings the Liam McCarthy cup back to his home town of Galbally Limerick boss John Kiely brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup home to Galbally last August. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For Kiely the focus is on trying to maintain Limerick’s elevated level of display and he’ll cast an eye to other sports to help him achieve that.

“I love listening to other sports people speak about their sport and the challenges of it be it rugby, soccer, golf or any particular sport to be honest. I’m always cognisant of listening to those sports people because most often than not, they are in a professional environment and we’re not.

“They are worth listening to and they are facing the same hurdles and challenges as we are, trying to get consistent and high level performance on a repeated basis. Why is it a golfer does well one weekend and misses the cut the week after? What do players who miss the cut repeatedly do to make the cut a different weekend?

“How do Leinster rugby repeatedly find ways of upping their performance at the key point of the year when it’s trophy time? They always seem to find a way of performing well when it matters most. Why wouldn’t you listen to people like that if there is some learning to be got from it?”

Limerick are currently the holders of two major hurling trophies, thriving in Munster will see them complete the set.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the last box (they have to tick). It’s a box I’m sure they would love to be part of. We all know how competitive that Munster championship is, how unique a competition it is.

“It will be a very tough challenge for whoever will win it. If you end up winning a Munster medal, in the present era, you’ll have really earned it because you’ll have played five games.

“Five games to win a Munster medal – you’d have won an All-Ireland and maybe a Munster championship years ago with that. It’s a wonderful competition to be part of.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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