LISTEN: John Kiely: Making league final would be a “massive achievement’ for the group.
Limerick’s senior hurlers will look to continue their impressive national league campaign when they face neighbours Tipperary in the semi final on Saturday evening. John Kiely’s young side have made positive strides this year and will view the game as a real test ahead of the championship.
Having secured promotion to 1A next season, Limerick followed that achievement up with an epic victory over Clare in the quarter final via a 65 metre shootout when two blocks of extra time couldn’t separate the sides.
Ahead of the weekend, John Kiely has given a clean bill of health to his charges.
“All is good for he weekend, everybody has come through clean. We have picked up a few knocks but nothing that isn’t manageable within our own timeframe, so we are good to go basically.”
The Limerick manager will have known the importance of securing promotion from 1B but the knockout stages of the competition will also provide some valuable experience for his youthful side.
“People talk a lot about targets and goal setting but for us, we are kinda looking at more making achievements and doing it as a group together. For us, getting out of 1B has been a great achievement but that is in the locker now at this stage.”
“We have had to move on and play our 1/4 final and again, making the semi final was an achievement for the group and to make it to the final would be another massive achievement for the group. That’s where our focus is for the last ten days now, trying to get ready for the semi final and see if we can give ourselves a chance to make it to the final.”
Standing in Limerick’s way of reaching the final is Michael Ryan’s Tipperary. They had an 11 point win over Dublin in Croke Park on Sunday despite the loss of Ronan Maher who was sent off for receiving 2 yellow cards just before half-time.
Tipperary have some outstanding performers on their side. Jason Forde has been their stand out player of the campaign so far, hitting 9 points against Dublin, 7 of which were from play. Other star players are John and Noel McGrath, Michael Breen, brothers Ronan and Padraic Maher and James Barry at centre-back.
Kiely watched Tipp ease past Dublin in the 1/4 final and is expecting another huge challenge from Michael Ryan’s side.
“we’re looking to put in a good performance next Saturday, we know that we are going to be up against very good opposition, we saw them come back and look after Dublin really comfortably so we know that we’re up against a really good side”
Limerick hurling supporters can only be impressed with the style of hurling over the league campaign. Potential banana skins against the likes of Offaly and Dublin were negotiated with ease and when the chips were down up in Salthill, they showed tremendous resolve and character to claw back an 8 point deficit and claim promotion.
What was also noticeable from the Clare game in particular was the emergence of Limerick’s goal threat. Aaron Gillane, Pat Ryan, Tom Morrissey and Kyle Hayes to mention a few are all athletic physical hurlers who are developing into top players.
“We like to use the strength of the players there. We have a lot of hard working players and we have some players then that can really get on the goal with the ball going forward. The likes of Aaron and Pat and Seamus, Barry Murphy, their all very very dangerous”
Limerick versus Tipp is always a talking point for the hurling supporters in both counties and Saturday evening will be no different. Tipperary will be looking for their first league title since 2008 and without a doubt they will throw everything at Limerick to make sure that they get to the final against either Wexford or Kilkenny.
2006 was the last time Limerick reached the league decider but were beaten by a Jackie Tyrell inspired Kilkenny side. Indeed, you have to go back all the way to 1997 to find the last time Limerick won a league title when a side captained by Gary Kirby beat Galway by 1-12 to 1-09.
You could say that Limerick progressed to the same point in the competition last year and got knocked out by Galway but this side are fare more developed that the 2017 edition.
Like John Kiely said, a victory over Tipperary on Saturday would be a great achievement but regardless of the result, Limerick hurling is in a better place than this time twelve months ago.
Roll on Saturday evening and the Summer can’t come fast enough.
Listen to John Kiely’s interview in full on the link below.
Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final
Limerick V Tipperary
Saturday March 31st @7pm