A tenth All-Ireland hurling title for Limerick was something John Kiely could only dream of when he took over in 2016.
Not usually a man to highlight just how big the occasion is, Kiely couldn’t hide his delight come the final whistle.
Clocking up 3-32 when it matters most would bring a smile to most but knowing all of the hard work that the team speak of, it was something to be proud of.
Speaking after the game, Kiely hailed the ‘great performance’ that resulted in a 3-32 to 1-22 victory over Cork.
“It was a performance we were building towards over the last couple of months. We got things right from the start in terms of our set-up and we got the energy levels right. We started off putting a lot of pressure on Cork ball coming out of defence,” the manager said.
With the Shannonsiders taking home their third title in four years, Kiely said that the feat was still sinking in.
“It’s hard to comprehend. It seems like yesterday that we had two championship matches in 2017 and lost both, facing into a winter of complete and utter soul searching.”
Limerick finished with the highest points total in an All-Ireland hurling final but Kiely insists there’s more to come from his side still.
“When we came back after lockdown we had a lot of work to do, we knew we had a lot of work to do but we trusted ourselves to get it right and we trusted the coaches to get it right and they did. That’s evidenced from today’s performance.
“I just think this group are very much on an upward trajectory and today’s performance copper fastens that.
“We played very much as a team today. When one player made a mistake or there was an error in there, another player came in to make up the difference. That for me was the most pleasing aspect of the performance,” Kiely said.
The team effort was something that Kiely prioritised throughout the year and he was still singing their praises after the game.
“It was a huge collective effort which gives me great satisfaction because the guys who didn’t even feature today, they have put in tremendous effort and performances over recent weeks, even as late as last Tuesday night. It was their sharpening of the blade that produced that performance today.”
It’s now known that it was on Tuesday that the group played an A vs B game in training and the B team came out on top.
On the margin of victory, Kiely expressed his surprise at just how good Limerick were against their counterparts in the final.
“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.
“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 what was important to us coming into today’s game and trying to deliver on that.”
The manager believes that Sunday’s result was hard earned by his group, something they should be very proud of.
“We worked really hard and I think that’s the one thing I’d be most proud of – how hard we worked collectively as well as individually.
“Everything that Paul [Kinnerk] has been working with the boys over the last number of months was there to be seen on the field today and that gives great satisfaction to the coaches and ourselves.
“For everybody that’s involved, the work that they’ve all put in behind the scenes, it’s a fantastic reward for that.”