Limerick manager John Kiely yesterday dismissed Clare suggestions that his side could have done more to beat Tipperary in the last round of the Munster SHC, a result which would have sent the Banner through to the All-Ireland series.
Limerick didn’t start players such as captain Declan Hannon, 2018 Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch, Gearoid Hegarty and Graeme Mulcahy against Tipperary, and their loss in Semple Stadium meant Clare’s win over Cork the same day was in vain.
Irish Examiner columnist and Clare All-Ireland-winning captain Anthony Daly wrote in this paper after that weekend: “I could have been accused of sour grapes with my comments on RTÉ yesterday but it’s harder again for Clare to take when they know that Limerick could have done more.”
Yesterday Kiely said he wasn’t familiar with those sentiments but said Limerick had gone out to beat Tipperary “the same as we go out to win every single match we play”.
“I haven’t heard that, but okay,” said Kiely. “That’s their opinion and everyone’s entitled to their opinion. We went to win that match the same as we go out to win every single match we play. That (not trying to win) wouldn’t be my mantra, it certainly wouldn’t be my mentality, and the day I start thinking like that is the day I’ll be saying, ‘good luck, lads’.
“The bottom line, as I’ve said, is that it’s really difficult playing the three games in fourteen days.
People do not realise it, maybe those people have not been involved with teams who’ve had to go through that.
“It’s really difficult to keep bringing yourself to the intensity for games like that. The Clare game, the Waterford game, those needed huge intensity for us to keep ourselves in the competition. Maybe a couple more rotations might have been needed.”
Limerick also lost their first Munster championship game, to Cork, so they qualified for the provincial decider despite two losses. Kiely acknowledged that some supporters might take time to get used to the new round-robin structure producing results like that.
“This is only year two of the competition, so people coming from a background of a knock-out Munster championship system are going to say, ‘this is madness’.
“But this is the structure. The structure is where three teams are tied on points then it’s score difference, and if it’s two teams it’s the head to head. Some years you’re going to come out the right side of that, and some years you’ll come out the wrong side.
“That’s just the way the structure of the competition is, and it might take a few years for everybody to get used to that kind of outcome. It’s unusual, it takes a bit of getting used to, but it is what it is.”
The Limerick boss expects to have a full hand to pick from, with only “knocks and tweaks” to contend with apart from Barry Murphy — the attacker is set to miss the rest of the season with a serious hamstring injury.
“We’re not one hundred per cent but we’re not too bad,” said Kiely.
We picked up a couple of bits and pieces at the weekend, but nothing major. Knocks and tweaks, but it’ll take to the end of the week before we know where we’re at.
“Barry Murphy is obviously out, Seamus Flanagan got a bang on the hand the last day — he trained Friday but didn’t train Sunday, we’re hoping he’ll train tonight (Tuesday). We’ll see how that goes tonight.”
Tipperary must plan for Sunday without Cathal Barrett, who has a hamstring problem and will miss Sunday’s game, while Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher will miss the rest of the 2019 season as he recovers from a cruciate injury picked up in the Premier win over Limerick two weeks ago.
Kiely paid a warm tribute to Maher, describing him as “a phenomenal hurler” and wished him a speedy recovery: “Nobody likes to see any player getting injured, especially with a cruciate injury.
“Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher has been a phenomenal servant to Tipperary hurling, he’s been the kind of player that any hurling person would have admired for his work rate, his line breaks, his vision, his hand passing, his relentlessness in attack. He’s just a phenomenal hurler.
“Nobody takes any satisfaction in seeing a player of his calibre being unavailable for a Munster final — his injury’s really unfortunate and we wish him well in his recovery. For us it’s about ourselves, our team, our preparations, and that’s more than enough for us to contend with.
“Our performance wasn’t good enough the last day and that’s where our focus has to be. We need to make sure that all the ingredients we need for Sunday are there.”