Limerick hurling manager John Kiely “marvels” at Brian Cody’s appetite for the game saying the Kilkennyman “is an example to all of us”.
Speaking ahead of the two sides’ eagerly anticipated All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday, Kiely said of his opposite number: “I marvel at what he has done, marvel. I don’t know where he gets the energy from. But he loves Kilkenny hurling, he loves hurling.
“And he always manages to get the best out of his teams every day he goes out. He is an example to all of us, really.”
Last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final against the Cats was a huge game for Limerick, who just made it over the line after a ding-dong game in Thurles.
“It was,” said Kiely. “It was a real 50-50 match. It was only a case of who was going to be in the lead when the final whistle went more than one team beating the other.
“We were just lucky that we managed to get our noses in front before the final whistle. That was the bottom line. But it was a real, real tussle.
“We had control of the game for good spells and made good use of it. But when they got their purple matches they took great use of it as well.
“Richie Hogan came on and did his usual, got a vital score, a big score, a goal.
“He is capable of doing that on a regular basis. He did it then and did it again the last day (against Cork). They have real strength in their forwards with a load of experience as well with TJ Reid, Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly, Walter Walsh and a lot of these lads are coming back at the right time. It is going to be a real challenge for us on Saturday.”
Having said that, Kiely said last season’s win hasn’t occupied his thoughts in the run-up to this weekend.
“At the time it was an important victory, there are no two ways about that. But has that come into my horizon in the last three weeks? No.
“This is 2019, that was 2018. A lot has changed and yet nothing has changed, if you like, because going into the game on Saturday evening no matter what you have done in the lead up to it you know that you are in for an almighty battle and that is just the way it is.
“Semi-finals are real battles. You saw it last year with the semi-finals. Two amazing battles. One of them had to go to a replay. One had to go to extra-time.
“They are there for the winning, and it is going to take a really top-drawer performance to get through.”
Kiely reiterated his admiration for the spirit Cody instils in all his teams: “We have admired it for decades now. It is not just this team, it is all the teams. It is just a Kilkenny trait. They are just a very resilient team always on the pitch.
“You are never going to have the luxury of taking your foot off the gas with these guys. They just always produce the goods. Their form has been rising with every game of late.”
The Limerick boss backs up his opinion with hard evidence on that score.
“They have players available to them that they didn’t have available last year and they are vital players. They have brought through a number of their younger lads as well now.
“Huw Lawlor, for example, at full-back has had a really good season there. Very big strong lad, tall, likes to be on the ball.
“And there is many more of them there as well.
“We know we have a huge challenge ahead of us on Saturday evening.”
Limerick have a clean bill of health for the weekend, said the Galbally clubman.
“Injury wise we are fine,” said Kiely.
“All good, thank God. We will have a full complement of players at training tonight so that’s all we could ask for now at the moment. That’s about that really. It is what it is.”
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