John Kiely delights in Limerick’s performance and just the chance to do it

‘I am going to enjoy this one now anyway. Whatever will come after it, we’ll worry about it’

It was interesting to see John Kiely and Paul Kinnerk in the last few minutes of the final, their team sitting handsome on the scoreboard and lording it on the field but the pair of them still invested in every single play. But as the celebrations continued on the field, the manager could say afterwards that he felt that his players were in a good place from the very opening seconds of the All-Ireland final.

“As much as you can have a plan going into a game, we had obviously very high expectations of ourselves in terms of how hard we wanted to work on the day and I think the players delivered on that in spades,” said Kiely.

“They worked really, really hard from start to the finish right across the pitch. It was a very defiant performance. Whatever was fired at the boys, they found a way to cope with it. Going forward, I think we showed fantastic teamwork in terms of our support running and our lines of running, just wave after wave of attacker.

“I think there were a couple of incidents during the game where, the very first play, that first 40 seconds, it was a very defining moment in the game. We took it forward, there was huge resistance put up against us and we still managed to get the score. That set the tone for us.

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“Overall, I’m very, very proud of the lads. They have worked so, so hard. Last year was a huge disappointment to us. To come back into it straightaway and the resolve they have shown, the determination they have shown, the appetite for work they have shown right throughout the year has just been immense.”

Dealing with the relentless fun and acclaim that came in 2018 with winning Limerick’s first MacCarthy Cup since 1973 was always going to be a challenge for a young team. They fell short last summer but this strained, extended hurling year gave them the platform to realise their potential to bloom into a great team. Through the muted atmosphere and wintry conditions, they did enough to get through without ever absolutely wowing in their performances. This final performance was their best and bodes well for the years ahead. But Kiely was just too blissed out to think about next year.

“I am going to enjoy this one now anyway. Whatever will come after it, we’ll worry about it. Living in the world we are living in right now and look at the year we have had, it has just been incredible, so difficult.

“We are so fortunate to be able to do what we are doing over the last few months. When you look at musicians and people in the entertainment industry and the hospitality industry, and hotels, pubs, these people that can’t even open their businesses. We have been able to go out and play matches. We have got to put everything into perspective.

“It is a fantastic achievement for our players in Limerick, but there are bigger things and please God 2021 is going to herald the arrival of the vaccine and a return to normality for all our people and all our society, and get people back into stadiums. I am sure they will be queueing up to buy tickets for the League, if we can get that vaccine rolled out.

“We have to accept this is a rare privilege to be here for us and to be able to partake in today’s game and we always aimed to appreciate that in the last two weeks and to give it a performance it merited given the opportunity we had.”

It will be a new sensation for the champions: leaving the cup in the stadium and heading home to a quiet victorious county.

"We are going to get some food downstairs out of a cardboard box and then on a train back to Limerick," said Diarmaid Byrnes of the plans for the evening.

“We have to follow the guidelines that are there. There are serious things happening outside of this and we are lucky we had the opportunity to bring this to the people at home and bring some joy. There are tens of thousands of Limerick supporters around the world behind us and we know that too.”

Cian Lynch hung around in the chill of the Hogan Stand for 15 minutes still in his playing gear to fulfil his media duties. The grin never left his face. But he admitted that it has been a challenging year for all GAA players.

“Yeah, like people forget we have to go to our day jobs. We have to go into work, into placements, teachers have to mix with their classes. That is a massive thing.

“So we’re just delighted to be able to come away with it, to be able to go home to our mothers and fathers. It’s hard not having them here today. We all have families at home – the tellies are probably broken at home. That’s what’s special. It’s hard – the last time, my mother was out on the pitch. Not having them here is a strange feeling. But we had each other.”