With the focus firmly on the players, John Kiely is enjoying himself as much as ever

Being in charge of Limerick since 2016, Kiely has seen this all before, winning four All-Ireland titles in his tenure, but he hasn’t lost that enjoyment.

As Limerick and Kilkenny prepare to lock horns in the All-Ireland final this weekend, all eyes are on the players, with question marks remaining over the inclusion of some.

Although their role is a vital one, perhaps there is not many focused on the managers themselves, as John Kiely and Derek Lyng prepare to go to battle.

There couldn’t be more contrast, with Kiely the longest serving manager in the country, and Lyng in just his first season in charge. It is all new for the Cats boss, and he must be filled with excitement having led the side back to the final in their first year under new management this century.

On the other side, taking charge of Limerick in 2016, Kiely has seen this all before, winning four All-Ireland titles in his tenure, but he hasn’t lost that enjoyment.

Speaking ahead of the final, the Galballly native stressed he doesn’t “go out there to enjoy” himself, but instead just tries to give his players the best chance of winning.

“It’s a great privilege to be on the line, and to work with the lads, and support them with what they’re trying to do. I don’t go out there to enjoy myself. When you pull out the door, before you get in the car, you park everything at home, you park everything in the rest of your life. From then on you’re in your job as, for me the manager of the team, for everyone else whatever role they have.

“None of us wants to be the one to drop the ball for the lads, you don’t want to have that regret. It can be challenging trying to make decisions.

“It’s a very satisfying job, I’m very honoured to have it, to be there with this group. You’d like to think that you’ve given them every opportunity.”

21 May 2023; Tipperary manager Liam Cahill and Limerick manager John Kiely after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match between Tipperary and Limerick at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

With the All-Ireland final a matter of days away, all the hard work has now been done, and the players will be ready for battle.

Kiely said he doesn’t get drawn into any mind games or added tension in the build up to final day, claiming his “focus is solely on training sessions.”

“We’re lucky we have a good team of people around us, I won’t be involved in any of it, my focus is solely on training sessions, welfare of the players, getting tactical approaches correct, making sure we have all our bases covered, that’s where my focus is at. Its all about the performance and going after that now for the next two weeks, there’s plenty of people can look after all the sideshows.”

It has been an exhausting championship for all sides involved, where the provincial winners had the added bonus of an extended break following their final wins.

Beaten semi-finalists Galway and Clare did not have the benefit of this break, and this weekend we will see two sides clash who should be at the peak of their powers.

Kiely highlighted the importance of the break, and the time it came at, having put so much into “an arduous Munster championship.”

“It was crucial at that juncture in the campaign, we had been through an arduous Munster championship and had put in a huge amount of energy, just needed a break, simple as that, we were damn glad to get it!”

11 June 2023; Limerick players celebrate after the Munster GAA Hurling Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The Shannonsiders have dominated the hurling landscape since Kiely’s appointment, winning three Liam MacCarthy cups in a row, and four in five years, all under the watchful eye of their manager.

Having been a part of the Limerick side that fell to Wexford in the 1996 decider, further stretching their wait for an All-Ireland, Kiely and co will aim to make it four successive All-Ireland’s this Sunday, a feat only Kilkenny and Cork have achieved before.

One thing is for sure if they are successful, the fifth Liam MacCarthy will mean just as much to Kiely and his players as the first one did.

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