John Kiely credits side with upping and maintaining intensity
All-Ireland champions show remarkable transformation from round-robin meeting
Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates with fans after the victory over Tipperary in the Munster SHC Final at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The comparison with their previous encounter was unavoidable. Here, Limerick were transformed – in attitude as much as personnel – to the side that surrendered to Tipperary when the teams met in the last round-robin game of this Munster championship. Through the last quarter of this final, with Limerick magisterial on the ball and demonic without it, they showed their truest colours. The green was vivid and imposing and dominated the day.
“We were coming off the back of two very tough games before that [round-robin game) with Waterford and Clare. We won by big margins but we put ourselves under tremendous pressure to get those performances out of ourselves, to get a chance in the final game,” John Kiely said of their Munster campaign.
“But that final game of three-in-a-row is a tough one – I don’t know if we’ll ever crack it, but it’s a tough, tough gig. You’d have to expect the intensity levels to go up given the two-week break. When you can apply yourself, that high level of work rate, you are going to compromise their ability to get the ball in. It’s going to have an impact on the game, and you’ll probably create some chances yourself. We got a good few scores on turnovers as well.”
By the last quarter, the Limerick scores were coming from any and everywhere. There were moments, in fact, when their management looked agitated by the shot selection of their players, who became a little trigger-happy after they stretched away on the scoreboard. After huge anticipation in both counties, Limerick enjoyed an easier closing quarter than Kiely could have expected.
“Absolutely not, no. It’s hard to know what to expect from Munster finals, they can become a slugfest, and other times they can be like that one. I thought the game was full of quality right up to a few minutes before half-time, I felt we were wresting control of the game at that stage. But up to then I thought it was really high-quality stuff from both sides. We began to find our rhythm, our intensity levels went up and we were able to maintain them.”
After congratulating Kiely, Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy stopped to reflect on a day when Tipp just about stayed alive on the scoreboard despite getting very little purchase on open play.
“When you’re chasing and being outmuscled and outworked, they seemed to get in several blocks. We just didn’t seem to have a flow, we were blocked down a lot today and a lot of those blocks led to individual scores. The time we nearly had the ball gone in the first half, it ended up in the back of the net.
“Look, they’re a very good side but we are better than what we showed today. We’re delighted with the fact we’ll get a chance to rectify that. And when they start to get away on you, the crowd and there’s a green wave coming at you in Limerick: it’s a hard tide to stem.
“We had lost the energy. I was delighted to see us just get the two points, hit the side netting . . . we could have picked up 1-2 or 1-3 in those last few minutes but ultimately it was only going to tidy up the scoreboard. Limerick on the day were the better team and we had some good patches of play but never found the form that we had found in Munster to date. As a result, we found ourselves runners-up in this competition.”
As Tipperary followers feared, the loss of Cathal Barrett in that round-robin win was a high price to pay. Sheedy gave the Holycross defender as long as possible to recover but ultimately opted to make sure he is available in the weeks ahead.
“Yeah, it was touch and go. He trained full on Friday night but there was the risk with fatigue that he would end up doing damage, and if he does damage you run the risk of him being gone from the championship. We weighed it up and we decided against it late on.”