Limerick’s Focus Solely On Banner Battle

There were obvious plus points for John Kiely and Co on Sunday. Five of six forwards scoring from play, midfield utterly dominant, ten points from the bench and a solid defensive display that coughed up only 5 points from play. 

Kiely was most impressed with the work rate of the forwards.

“We worked really hard, put an awful lot of pressure on the Waterford backs. Turned over a good lot of ball and got good scores. Overall, the whole attitude of what we were about today was much better.”

So is Limerick’s All Ireland defence back on-track? I would say it is. With Tipp’s demolition of Clare the picture has become a little clearer.

Electric Ireland Munster GAA Minor Hurling Championship Round 3, Cusack Park, Ennis, Co. Clare 2/6/2019 Clare vs Tipperary Tipperary’s Patrick Maher and Seamus Callanan with Cathal Malone of Clare Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Limerick need to at the very least beat Clare. However finishing on the same points as Cork is not an option due to the head to head. (Scoring difference only comes into account if more than two teams finish on the same points).

Therefore for Limerick to be confident of being in the mix come the quarter finals they realistically need to beat a Tipp team who are flying at the moment, Tipp have put a premium on fitness and work rate this year under Liam Sheedy and look a very strong team but Limerick are the All Ireland and League champions. If anyone can beat Tipp in this year’s Munster Championship it is the Treaty men. 

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 2/2/2019 Limerick vs Tipperary Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes in action against Tipperary’s Patrick Maher Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

So from a sport psychologist point of view how do you approach having to win every game.  The first step is not to get ahead of yourself, focus on one challenge at a time and set match to match goals.

Kiely in his post Waterford interview stated

“The boys have shown they have plenty appetite for it. Who knows what it will come down to yet? We’ve got to regroup quickly and make sure we’re in the best shape we can be next weekend.” Straightaway he is bringing the attention back to the next game.

The next step is in maintaining perspective and managing expectations. Kyrie Irving the Boston Celtics superstar when asked if he felt any extra  pressure in the play offs when there was no room for failure, responded:

“There’s no extra burden. This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me. Being able to go back, get back in the trenches, get ready for another battle on Friday, that’s what you live for. Basketball is fun when it comes like this and you have to respond. This is the type of basketball you want to be playing this time of year.”  

The Boston Celtics Kyrie Irving

Kiely will be communicating to his players that the challenges ahead are made for this group of players. This is why they play hurling.  That rather than be a burden this is what makes champions. 

An important ingredient in High Performance mindset is the focus on what you have control over. Kielyand his staff will be reinforcing the message this week that you cannot control the outcome of a game but you massively influence it by following a game plan, staying in the moment and winning your battles. I describe this as being the things you C.A.N. control.

Composure: Breathing/ Rest/ Nutrition/Pre-Game Prep 

            “The will to win is overrated in athletics, because everyone wants to win. It’s the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” Bobby Knight

Indiana Hoosiers Coach Bobby Knight

Attitude: Body language/ Execution/ Work rate/ Choosing Response v Reaction.

            The All Blacks build resilience by focussing on cool headed response to a situation rather than overly emotional reaction

Now: Staying in the moment. Forget the past and don’t dwell on the future. Just control the moment in front of you. Breaking a game down into 70 one min battles. If you make a mistake in a game that is simply one battle you have lost but you have control on how you respond to that, shake it off and stay focussed on the next moment. 

A big wave surfer I worked with had the words “Be Right On, Right Here, Right Now” written on his surf board. This was to remind him that the only thing that mattered in the moment when on an 80 ft wave was the here and now. Any distraction could be fatal. 

Big Wave Surfers

The same principle applies to Limerick at the moment. Nothing is more important in their thoughts than the Clare game. Win that and then the focus will shift to Tipp. What the Limerick team did exceptionally well on Sunday was keeping their attention on the next ball and winning their individual battles. 

This mindset is created in your pre game preparation. Respected Sport psychologist Dr Patrick Cohn believes the purpose of a mental prep routine is to :

  • Feel poised and relaxed about an upcoming competition.
  • Feel confident in your skill at the start of competition.
  • Enjoy competing and overcome pregame jitters.
  • Trust in your skills you have trained in practice.

In my work with players I work the 6 Steps for Pregame Mental Preparation:

  1. Manage your distractions to allow you to focus only on your athletic role
  2. Discard outcome expectations. Let go of the need to be perfect or trying to control the outcome. 
  3. Control your confidence. (Composure, Attitude, Now) .
  4. Focus on execution or the process and not results. Stay into the moment and don’t think too far ahead.
  5. Rehearse your performance and game plan. Visualize how you want to perform and execute you game plan.
  6. Prepare your mind and body to trust in your skills.

These are keys steps on the path to resilience and mental toughness. I have no doubt these are  an integral part of the path Limerick Management are taking to ensure that the team is prepared tactically, technically, physically and mentally.

John Kiely has put together a top class backroom team of experts to ensure that the team’s pre game preparation in all four areas is the best it could possibly be. 

2 June 2019; Limerick manager John Kiely, right, and selector Paul Kinnerk during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 3 match between Waterford and Limerick at Walsh Park in Waterford. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

One thing for certain is that this management group will not allow the players to get distracted by thoughts of All Irelands and Croke Park. All preparation will be focussed on how to beat Clare next weekend. Achieve that and attention will be drawn to what they C.A.N. control in preparation for a massive game against Tipperary. 

Kiely is right “Days like this are what they play championship hurling for” and are the reasons we as fans keep coming back for more.

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