If there’s one bit of advice Gary Kirby would give John Kiely from Limerick’s last All-Ireland final appearance it would be to shelve any ideas about a fans’ night.
A selector under his uncle Richie Bennis in 2007, former county star Kirby felt the meet-and-greet event before they faced Kilkenny was energy-sapping.
When Limerick ended up losing by seven points, some of the players’ pre-match commercial appearances were condemned although the Patrickswell man maintains “too much” was made of it.
A few things happened but nothing major,” he recalls of their endorsement work. “If I’d go back again, I would have scrapped the open public night for the supporters. It was a very tiring night for the players. If it’s to go ahead at all it should be after the final whatever the result. The public mightn’t be too happy about that but the players don’t need it.
Kirby also felt the players were taken aback by the sheer volume of support from their own in Croke Park when they took to the field. “We weren’t prepared for the noise when we went out onto the pitch. We had a huge crowd and it took us a while to come to terms with that.
“Kilkenny won that game in the first 10 minutes — there is no point in saying they didn’t. I don’t think these guys now will have that problem.”
Kirby knows Kiely was coming from the right place when he spoke about keeping a lid on how the players interact with the media before August 19. The expectation, though, is not of their own making but Kirby senses the county is on the same wavelength as the team.
No matter what you say, there’s going to be hype. The Limerick public can do their bit by leaving the players alone and I do feel that they will do that. I think these players know what to do for a final but they have to be allowed prepare for it. The worst thing I found in my experiences was people coming up to you looking for tickets. Let the players do what they have to do.
Kirby doesn’t see this group being haunted by the past. “These guys have won All-Ireland U21s and been in minor finals. They’ve beaten all the top teams around them — Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Cork. They know how to win big matches. They want to create their own history. Things like 1994, a few of them weren’t even born then. It’s a long way back to that for them. They don’t have that many headaches that way. The only thing they want to do is win, not make up for the past.”
Sunday was a great source of pride for Kirby in that five of his UL panel which claimed Fitzgibbon Cup honours in February were on the Limerick squad — Seán Finn, Michael Casey, Gearóid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey and Pat Ryan.
The day previously, the college had four in the Clare set-up — Conor Cleary, David Fitzgerald, Tony Kelly and Ian Galvin.
In Diarmaid Byrnes, Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane, Patrickswell were well represented too and Kirby has no worries about the goal openings Gillane hasn’t put away in the past two outings.
“At least every time he gets through he’s able to, at the very least, kick the ball. All but one of the times he scored from those chances. In fairness, (Eoin) Murphy had to pull off a great save to stop him in the quarter-final. Cian would always have been a prospect and Aaron has just been getting stronger and stronger. He didn’t make the minors or U21s as early as he probably should have but he’s bulked out. Diarmuid has been putting in big performances too and Cian has been exceptional. We’re thrilled with how the three guys are going.”