John Kiely: ‘We trusted our own players and focused on what was important to us’

Limerick’s win was made all the sweeter by the record All-Ireland winning score of 3-32

Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy Cup at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy Cup at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

On the whistle John Kiely reached out for the hand of Kieran Kingston and held it firmly for several seconds. Kind words were said when in truth no words could fill or capture their world apart.

A record All-Ireland winning score for the Limerick manager, a record defeat for the Cork manager, and a game that divided the two teams in a way that is rarely seen on any major sporting stage. Limerick won the game and every conceivable facet of it, and it may take some time before Cork fully understand or begin to get over what actually hit them.

It was over an hour after the whistle when Kiely arrived into the press conference room, a little weary-looking, perhaps, but in no way disguising his satisfaction. A third All-Ireland title in four years, the nagging feeling it might easily have been four had 2019 not slipped them by, and the record final score of 3-32 they put on the Croke Park scoreboard a sign perhaps of the enduring strength that is to come.

Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Limerick’s Aaron Gillane celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

“No, absolutely not, I’d be straight with you,” he said, when asked if he ever imagined that sort of score. “I was acutely aware of Cork’s rising levels of performance over the summer and the confidence they were garnering, the support they were garnering.

“They had a head of steam up and when you have a head of steam up, as we know in 2018, it can often be very hard to stop that, so whilst we were aware about it, we didn’t obsess about it. We trusted our own players, trusted the work we were doing and we stayed focused on that work and stayed focused on what was important to us coming into today’s game and trying to deliver on that.

‘Preparing the team’

“Anything that was a consequence of today’s result was irrelevant to us in our own space. Obviously, there is a context, there is a narrative there, that’s not part of what we are involved in. We are involved in preparing the team to perform, the players involved in preparing themselves to get the best out of themselves.”

Whatever about the score, Kiely was sure his team were ready to deliver a performance. “Yeah, listen, we are good at assessing where we are at any given time. That’s important two ways, because obviously if you are not going well, as we were at times earlier in the year, you have to be able to acknowledge that. We struggled early doors because we had a lot of work to do when we came back. We got the timing right, we timed out returning to training right.”

Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates after the All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates after the All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Two goals by Gearóid Hegarty in the first half went some way towards setting Limerick up for the record win, which saw them leading Cork by 3-18 to 1-11 at half-time; that 3-18 alone would have won them the 2018 All-Ireland.

“It’s surreal, really,” said Hegarty. “To have fans back in the ground to watch. Last year was great, obviously, having a championship when we didn’t know whether it was going to go ahead or not. But that was different. To be able to see your family afterwards – I met my mother and father there, I met my brother and sisters, I met my uncle and some of my closest friends. I guess that is special. We’re almost back to normality. It wasn’t a full stadium today but it felt like it.

‘Best performance’

“It’s brilliant that everything went well for us. You want your best performance to be in an All-Ireland final and All-Ireland semi-final. To get that performance in the first half was incredible. We scored 3-18 in the first half. We scored 3-16 in the 2018 All-Ireland to win it by a point. We scored two points more in one half this year. It’s incredible.

“But there’s no selfishness on our team. The man in the best position gets the ball 99 times out of 100. That’s the way it has to be. It’s drilled into us by the management team, there’s no choice in the matter. The man in the best position has to get the ball. There’s no single person looking for the plaudits. Whoever gets it, gets it.”

Limerick’s Cian Lynch celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy cup. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Limerick’s Cian Lynch celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy cup. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Peter Casey was having the game of his life before a knee injury forced his retirement just before the break, his five points from play as majestic as any on the day.

“These are the days you dream of growing up as a young lad trying to play hurling,” he said. “I think everyone was just playing so well. We really targeted the first quarter to try and get hold of the game. We’re all so used to playing with each other now, be it in A v B games or in training or whatever. It’s just great when it works out and all comes together in a game like this in Croke Park.”

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