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Limerick hurling manager John Kiely.
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John Kiely: 'The buzz was there this morning. The buzz was there all week. We could all feel it'
The Limerick manager on the return of the hurling championship.

JUST UNDER 15 months since one championship journey ended for John Kiely and his Limerick hurlers, another began.

Their 2019 All-Ireland hopes were shattered by Kilkenny on a late July evening, their 2020 Munster ambitions took flight against Clare on a late October afternoon.

After all the uncertainty that has hovered over sport this year, even in the surreal setting of a largely empty Semple Stadium, Kiely could still experience the fervour of championship hurling as he watched his charges sweep past Clare.

“Listen, I’ll be honest with you, the buzz was there this morning. The buzz was there all week. We could all feel it, probably today more so than ever because we realised how privileged we are to have an opportunity to play.

“Everything was as normal apart from the fact that there’s nobody here. Everything else was as normal in terms of the nerves, the excitement, the unknown, the anticipation of what might be the unknown that you might not have thought of that might just happen.

“I think the players will still be much more satisfied as individuals on both cases, I would imagine, that at least they got to play their game today. Being honest with you, then when the crowd is there sometimes you don’t know that they’re there at all. You’re just so engrossed in the game.

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“I think the crowd adds to the occasion without a shadow of a doubt. From the minute you arrive at the stadium you know things are different. But listen it is what it is. We just have to accept it now and move on.”

Kielty has long been an advocate of finding a way to kick-start the 2020 championship and was conscious of all those tuning in to the television coverage at home as the Munster action commenced.

“I’m sure an awful lot of people at home got a lot of enjoyment out of being able to sit down of a Sunday afternoon and watch a Championship match, especially the older people in the population. They will great solace from the fact of being able to sit down and watch their team play and watch all the other teams play you know.

“I know from my own parents they’ll be welded every Saturday, every Sunday, to all the matches that’ll be going on and I’m sure that’ll be the case in many a household all over the country. Of course it’s worth it, it’s absolutely worth it. Unfortunately it has to be the way it is. Who knows maybe in December things might be a bit better?

“There’s been a big improvement this week in the last few days in the reproductive rate, the hospitalisations down last night, intensive care a slight drop at least not an increase so there’s lots of factors that are suddenly beginning to turn in all our favour and hopefully in two or three weeks time we’ll be in a much better place again and who knows what’ll happen in December. So we’ll just keep ploughing on, stay positive.”

Kiely felt there was a striking improvement in the second half in his team’s display, the win a launchpad for next Sunday’s meeting with Tipperary.

“So at half-time I would have been a bit concerned about that, but we said ‘listen, first game back, maybe we just need to give a little bit more time to see if we can get up to the rhythm of it.’ And we went out and we addressed those concerns we had, we got the first five scores after the break and that gave us a good platform.

“Our hurling was a lot crisper and sharper at that stage, our support runners were coming, we were putting balls through the hands very crisply and we were finding our men in the forwards with the ball in a bit of space. Our accuracy was quite good in the second half, and the boys off the bench made a very good impact as well, all four up front we’ll say and Jerome just got on late doors.

“There was a nice spread of scores on the day but very aware of the fact that next week we’re going to have to up our game significantly again. We’re playing the All-Ireland champions so we’re going to have a big, big challenge to get ready for that now, quick turnaround in seven days. Listen, I’m glad we’ve got the game under our best, we had an idea of where we needed to go in terms of things we needed to work on and we’ll have to go and get our shoulder to the wheel on that over the next seven days.”

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