“We felt quite comfortable in the end” | John Kiely speaks after Limerick’s Clare comeback kicks off Munster campaign

The second half introductions of Ó Dálaigh, Adam English and Conor Boylan were, in Kiely’s words, “pivotal” in turning the tide for the defending champions.

John Kiely was happy with his team’s ability to “seize the moment” on Sunday, as Limerick kicked off their Munster Hurling Championship campaign with a win over Clare in Cusack Park.

The defending Munster champions trailed by nine points at one stage in the second half, but three goals in seven minutes courtesy of an Aaron Gillane brace and a Donnacha Ó Dálaigh strike turned the tide.

Clare headed into half-time with a five point advantage, and while they appeared to be the side in the ascendency, Kiely believes that his men were “working very, very hard” despite trailing.

“I think the first three quarters we were working very, very hard, which is one of the hallmarks of our team. We didn’t execute our chances, we had 18 scoring chances in the first-half to Clare’s 16, we went in five points down, that doesn’t happen very often. We just didn’t execute our chances well enough, we didn’t close the gap between ourselves and goal and then take the shot. For a number of our players, they hadn’t a huge amount of game time in this Spring, they’ve had a number of injuries, just coming back into it. It was always going to be a case today where it was going to be expected that some of our decision making and some of our execution was going to need sharpening. We did as much as we could in the last month but there’s only so much you can do if you’ve got injuries on board.”

Limerick lost Mike Casey to a hamstring injury in the first-half, the Na Piarsaigh man having to be replaced by Sean Finn, who himself is just easing his way back to action following an ACL injury.

Kiely’s side have struggled with injuries in recent months, the Galbally native stressing that they have done “as much as we could in the last month but there’s only so much you can do if you’ve got injuries on board.”

While it is a blow to lose a player of Casey’s calibre, the Limerick manager was quick to heap praise on the incoming Finn, who had to deal with a relentless Banner attack.

“Mike, it was unfortunate because he was after getting off to a great start, he’s had a brilliant month he was on super form, but we’ll get him back and we’ll get him going again in a few weeks time. Sean was always going to have to see action at some point, and it always in our intention to get Sean on the pitch today. Getting a guy like Sean Finn on the field, if you can’t be trusting of Sean Finn who are you going to trust? I thought he did brilliantly, absolutely brilliantly. Difficult circumstances, he’s up against some excellent forwards who are getting super ball in and having to defend that is not always easy, I though the did fantastically well.”

21 April 2024; Limerick full-back Dan Morrissey keeps a close eye as his team-mate Sean Finn contests a dropping ball between Clare players David Reidy and Shane O’Donnell, right, during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Clare and Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The second half introductions of Ó Dálaigh, Adam English and Conor Boylan were, in Kiely’s words, “pivotal” in turning the tide for the defending champions.

Ó Dálaigh struck 1-1 on his championship debut, while it was the youthful exuberance of Doon’s English that seemed to give Limerick a heartbeat in the dying embers.

Brian Lohan’s men held a nine point advantage at one stage in the second half, but Kiely didn’t feel as though the Banner were pulling away, as his side continued to manufacture scoring chances. He put it simply, “sometimes you just have to wait for it,” and it came.

“Momentum wasn’t with us, but Clare weren’t pulling away from us, we were still creating scoring chances, we just weren’t creating that bit of momentum by getting scores in a row, and then we strung off three points and the whole thing just shifted, then we got the goal, at that point you can say there’s a chance here, we just need to move and seize the moment and I think the players felt that as well, they grabbed it. Just really delighted with there impact of our boys off the bench, it was absolutely pivotal in that last quarter, our last quarter in the league has been our poorest quarter, for it to be out strongest today is just fantastic for us to take out of today’s game.”

“Sometimes you just have to wait for it, sometimes you run out of time, and today we just had to wait for it. We got into a nice flow for that last 15 minutes, we felt quite comfortable in the end really, being honest with you, defending that last 15 minutes, I thought we defended really, really well.”

21 April 2024; Gearoid Hegarty of Limerick after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Clare and Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The Limerick boss was clearly delighted with the impact of his substitutes, perhaps none more than Ó Dálaigh, who has had to be patient in waiting for his chance.

The Monaleen man replaced Seamus Flanagan early in the second half, and landed his first score of the afternoon shortly after.

It was in the 66th minute that the debutant hit the net, linking up nicely with Man of the Match Gearoid Hegarty to see Limerick 2-14 to 1-16 ahead as the clock ticked down.

Despite the thrill of producing such a comeback, Kiely stressed that Ó Dálaigh and co will have to keep calm, and that there is still a lot of work for them to do, the boss particularly unhappy with the number of frees his team conceded.

“Donnacha’s had a great league, it’s a difficult team to break into for any player, he’s got rakes of energy and ability, and he’ll take a huge amount out of today’s game even though it was only a quarter for him.”

“It was a great occasion today, both sets of supporters brought a fantastic passion to the game, we’re delighted to be back and back at it. What I would say is – it’s only game one of four! It’s only two points on the board at the end of the day, that won’t be enough by a long shot to get out of the group. We know what’s coming to us next Sunday, Tipp are coming to us, last year was a draw game, we were probably fortunate to get the draw. We have a huge amount to do now, we have to be a better team next week, that’s the bottom line. We have to be better on our puck out, we have to have better intensity, we have to be more accurate with or shooting, we have to give away an awful lot less frees. Our free count that we gave away today was very high, that wasn’t Colm Lyons’ fault, that was our fault! We have to tidy up our tacking our discipline in the tackle, give away less frees in our half of the field. We’ve got to tidy that up.”

21 April 2024; Donnacha Ó Dalaigh of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Clare and Limerick at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by John Sheridan/Sportsfile

Next up for Limerick is a meeting with Tipperary. The sides face off next Sunday in Round 2 of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship at 4pm in the TUS Gaelic Grounds. 

The pair played out a dramatic 0-25 a piece draw last year, as a last gasp free from substitute John McGrath forced a tie in Thurles.

Before next Sunday’s clash, Joe Quaid’s Limerick team will play Waterford in the Munster Senior Camogie Championship Quarter-Final at 2pm.


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