By Michael Moynihan
Limerick manager John Kiely said he was prepared for his side hitting wides in yesterday’s All-Ireland final, having told players “to accept it and get on with it” if they missed the target.
Limerick followers were concerned as their side hit 11 first-half wides but Kiely was calm.
“We had plenty of wides as well but we knew we’d get those and we told the lads to prepare themselves for that scenario, to accept it and get on with it.
“We told them, ‘take on your shot. If you don’t take it on, then the tackles are going to come, the hits are going to come, because they are so powerful, those Galway players, and they have worked so hard’.
“So if you get a glimpse, I said to them, take it on.”
It looked as though those wides might prove fatal towards the end, but Kiely said the players’ calmness was decisive:
Even as the noise from the celebrations outside drifted into the press area, Kiely admitted he wished he could “go away somewhere nice and quiet”.
“I was looking forward to meeting my family, going into the dressing room, in some strange way I would just love to go away somewhere nice and quiet. And not have to face thousands of people, and the same tomorrow. It’s hard, like.
“There is a county, generations of people, who have left that county who are so proud and so happy with what has been achieved here today, and we are delighted for them.
“But it isn’t easy being cast in the middle of all that. These lads have to be as good in their ability to be post-successful as they were in their quest to be successful if that makes sense. They need to carry themselves well as All-Ireland champions. That is very, very important.”
Limerick got a good start in the game but Kiely said he didn’t want to have too big a lead early on in the proceedings.
“We just wanted to get into the game, I didn’t want a big lead early doors because it becomes a weight on you.
“We saw with the eight-point lead, it’s an incredible thing when the momentum shifts back to the opposition, it’s so difficult to stunt that momentum and reverse it.
“We spoke about that all year, the need to respond at key moments when things go against you — Richie Hogan’s goal in Thurles, here against Cork when we were six down with 11 minutes left.
“Something had to happen.
“Sometimes when you have a big lead, when it starts to trickle it, the crowd senses the blood... we had it ourselves against Cork, we smelt it, ye probably smelt it above. It was slipping a bit.
“It slipped a bit today but we just managed to squeeze enough of a response to hold our ground.
“That key ball Tom (Morrissey) caught, the ball Graeme (Mulcahy) won and got a point from — we managed to win just enough balls and to get those shots off to deter Galway and to withstand that onslaught.”
As for ending Limerick’s 45-year wait for the All-Ireland, Kiely said: “It’s just an awful pity it took so long. We had fantastic teams in the eighties, 1980, 1981, 1994, 1996, 2007. Those groups would have fancied themselves other years but you had the knock-out situation. They were great teams, great players, but various bits and pieces didn’t go for them. It’s a pity it took so long.
“I’m delighted to be involved with this group, it’s an honour to be their spokesperson. I never thought, going back over the last seven, ten years, that this is where we’d end up, but someone else had plans.
The manager had a special word for Mike Casey, the full-back tasked with curbing Jonathan Glynn: “He was brilliant, he was probably under the most pressure of all the players because of the amount of commentary that was on his match up with Johnny Glynn.
“You know while there was a total mismatch height wise, Mike used every ounce of strength in his body to attack the ball, he really had a fantastic match.
“I don’t know who got man of the match but he is a contender.”