John Kiely: It’s all about progress for Limerick

For some managers there’s a sense of rationalising what’s happened with the league, or what hasn’t happened.

John Kiely: It’s all about progress for Limerick

Allianz HL Division 1 quarter-finals


Tomorrow: Páirc Uí Rinn, 4pm

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

John Kiely’s candour doesn’t allow for that. The Limerick boss is the one who mentions his team’s continued residence in Division 1B of the ruling league first in the conversation.

“In an overall sense our goal was to be promoted, if we could manage that at all. Once we lost to Wexford and they then went to Galway and won, that was the end of that ambition really.

“We had put ourselves in a very good position against Wexford when we met them but we just failed to push on in that last quarter against them — and to be fair to them, they did very well in that last quarter. They’re worthy Division 1B champions, they’ve won all their games and won them quite well, you can’t argue with that — hats off to them.

“It’s up to us now to push on and to get what we can out of the rest of the league.”

Kiely subscribes to the lemonade-from-lemons outlook when it comes to the second tier in as far as possible: “There’s two sides to the coin. In the games in 1B you definitely have that bit more latitude to try out new players, or younger players. We did that this season to an almost exaggerated level, I suppose, we’ve used 33 players and I don’t know if any other county has used as many, in either 1A or 1B.

“A lot of the teams in 1B are trying very hard — Offaly are making progress under Kevin Ryan, certainly, and Kerry are also making progress, but there’s still a gap there. I think that gap will close in the next couple of years, I don’t doubt that.

“The other side of 1B that is we saw, when we played Galway last weekend, while we had a very good first half — an exceptional performance — we were playing a Galway side that’s been in the mix for All-Ireland titles over the last four years, and they had a full team, with the exception of Daithi Burke, maybe.

“To be within a goal of them at this stage in our development as a team — that was a credible performance overall, even though we were disappointed with our second-half display.

“We felt we were in a strong position at half-time, and we would have expected ourselves to do better in the second half — a bit like Kieran Kingston and the consistency he’s looking for with Cork, that’s something we’ve been looking for as well. When you don’t get that, then it’s a bigger challenge when you face the stronger teams in the league.”

He’s the one who mentioned Cork, their opponents tomorrow.

“You’d keep an eye on what’s going on in 1A,” says Kiely, “And you’d have to be impressed by how Cork have gone, three wins and six points on the board. They’ve had a couple of slip-ups here and there, but they have a young side and they’ve made huge progress this year.

“Their mobility around the pitch is extraordinary, their skill levels are very good, their movement is good, they’re racking up big scores. We’re under no illusions about the size of the task this weekend.”

Cork have had 19 and 20-year-olds playing the likes of Kilkenny and Tipperary this spring — sure that’ll accelerate their development?

“Absolutely — those young lads have gotten a real baptism of fire in the league this year and you have to say they stood up to it very well.

“It’s getting down to the business end now, knockout games, and we’d be happy we’ve progressed ourselves considerably since the Munster League. We want to keep that progress and improvement from game to game continuing and we’ll be aiming to do that on Sunday.”

Kiely concurs with Damien Cahalane’s comments last weekend — that a quarter-final can be approached with a lot more freedom than a relegation game.

“I think both sides will have a real cut on Sunday — it has the makings of a really good game of hurling and I don’t think there’ll be a lot between the two. It will probably come down to whichever team is more efficient with their chances, whichever side is the more clinical on the day.”

They have a relatively clean bill of health — “We’re pretty good, we had a bit of a bad run in the league but we only have a couple of players now excluded through injury; Paul Browne and Kevin Downes and Peter Casey we’re not sure of, we’ll have to see closer to the game how he’s fixed” — and they’ll need all hands on deck for their visit to Leeside.

“If you look at the statistics for the league over the years, it seems to have had an influence on results, it seems to help the home teams — but not all. At the end of the day, the game is there to be won.

“It’ll be hostile enough for us on Sunday, there’ll probably be a full house or close enough to it, with the vast majority supporting Cork, but that makes it a challenge we’ll relish all the more.”

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