John Kiely thrilled with Limerick performance as they make it three-in-a-row

Manager is ‘still buzzing’ as Treaty county celebrate as though it was the first time

Limerick delight is becoming a common sight after these era-defining hurling days. They have slipped into that rare place where they are alive to the signs that they are ready for whatever might happen over the course of a match.

If they looked regal and untouchable in the All-Ireland finals of 2020 and 2021, here they were caught up in a shoot-out against the county whose knowledge of how to win these days is deep-rooted and complex. Yet still Limerick won. And still they celebrated as though it was the first time.

“Still buzzing to be honest with you,” beamed John Kiely.

“Just thrilled with the performance. We knew it was going to be a really tough game. When you are coming in as we were after winning two, it’s really challenging to be ready and on the money. But we were today. And we knew that from the minute we got in gear this morning and met on the train.

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“The noise levels in our group was through the roof. Just banter and fun. No nerves. And our day went really smoothly. It’s an important part of what you have to do in order to perform. And the last four or five weeks at training we were hitting levels that didn’t come out in the Galway game; we were disappointed with our performance in the Galway game.

“But from the Tuesday night when they got back I knew the effort they put in — it wasn’t meant to be that kind of a session but it became that because of the players. The boys set the tone themselves for the two weeks. And it has been a super two weeks.”

Afterwards, Cian Lynch took to the field heavily strapped and in crutches. The absence of such a crucial player would derail many teams. In the aftermath, Lynch approached Brian Cody and the pair engaged in conversation.

“A huge achievement for them,” acknowledged the Kilkenny manager.

“It was close at the end. Ah look, we are playing the All-Ireland champions. According to most predictions we weren’t at the level to reach an All-Ireland. But I think our players deserve huge admiration for the way they fought it out.”

Kilkenny were admirable here. For a few minutes, it looked as if might just complete what would have been their most audacious triumph. They climbed out of a few early-match holes to thunder back into contention through goals from Billy Ryan and Martin Keoghan. They drew level in the last ten minutes. But they could not get a nose in front.

“I suppose we built up a couple of leads a few times but Kilkenny haven’t won so many All Irelands by rolling over they keep going, keep going, keep going,” said Declan Hannon.

“They won savage balls they had no right to. The sheer intensity they bring to games is unbelievable and the physicality” he said before reflecting on their reaction to that seismic goal by Keoghan.

“It is like anything. You go on to the next puck out, reset and go again. If you worry about a goal just conceded, another two or three scores will go over.”

They played with the steely serenity of champions. It’s a trait Kilkenny people know well.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is a features writer with The Irish Times