John Kiely says if his Limerick side don’t win tomorrow’s All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny, it won’t be due to the break since the Munster final.
Provincial champions from the deep south have struggled to bridge that gap, and Kiely says “it’s hard to say” why that’s the case. “I don’t know. Who knows? I’m sure every manager of all those teams have their theories but I think most of them will tell you that it’s just they weren’t good enough in the semi-final.
“I’d say every group goes at it differently — not every team’s preparations are going to be identical. We’ve gone about it the way we’ve gone about it and we’ve worked extremely hard and that’s our approach to it, just to challenge the players to work extremely hard during that break and our own in-house games are very important as well.
“Talk to me on Sunday and I might have another theory on it. You might have a different question on it. I’m not saying that the break won’t be a factor or isn’t a factor, it’s a challenge and that’s what I mentioned earlier, this is a challenge and we’ve embraced the challenge, the players have embraced the challenge and worked extremely hard at making sure that we’re the best team that we can possibly be on the 27th. If we’re not successful on the 27th it won’t be because of the break.”
Last year Limerick played Carlow and Kilkenny before facing Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“Was it an advantage? It may or it may not be, depending on the year.
“Last year it suited us absolutely fine because we wanted more games to recover from our poor game in round four of the round-robin and we needed to make sure we had games and confidence, real confidence going into the semi-final.
It’s not quite the same as the last time Limerick collected the Munster title six years ago, he adds.
“2013 and 2019 are two totally different scenarios. You only have to look at the last three weeks. There hasn’t been a single iota about the fact that we won the Munster final. Not that I’m complaining, don’t get me wrong. It was lovely to have the last three weeks where we were completely off everyone else’s horizon and everyone else’s radar. It allowed us to go away and do our work nice and quietly. It allowed the lads to celebrate the Munster final for a day or two in a totally different fashion to what it would have been in 2013 where you had euphoria, homecomings and all that kind of shenanigans. I prefer it this way. I know that that’ll help us to find a better performance the next day as well.” In that context, how important is it to know who you’re playing?
Limerick had to wait for the result of the Kilkenny-Cork quarter-final, after all.
“We’re just trying to become better at what we’re trying to do ourselves,” says Kiely. “Much of what you’re doing is really opposition-irrelevant. You’re trying to get your intensity levels right, you’re trying to get your use of the ball right, you’re trying to get players fit and well.
“You’re trying to do everything that you do to a higher standard as you move through the championship and I’ve mentioned that on numerous occasions, teams will incrementally improve. Kilkenny have improved over the last number of games that they’ve played and that’s what we’re looking to do as well. The opposition is not necessarily the be-all and end-all.
“Ok, it’s nice to have a focal point come 14 days out, which we got, so that does help in that regard, but up to that point you’re just looking at yourself and getting your own ship in order.”
Kiely feels his side have “developed a strong resilience within the group”, adding: “We’ve bounced back from a couple of disappointing results — against Cork in the league, against Cork in the championship, we’ve responded after the game against Tipperary in round four, a below-par performance.
“Those were games we were disappointed with our performance levels in, and we’ve always come back and responded. We have very much embraced the challenge of the route we’ve taken, going straight to the semi-finals —and being aware that very few teams have been able to do that. We see that as a wonderful challenge for us to overcome, we acknowledged that straight after the Munster final, that this was a great challenge to immerse ourselves in. To embrace it and take it on. That’s what we’ve done with our work in the last two weeks, in terms of the intensity levels in training, and not having any fear of that concept but embracing the real challenge that it is.”