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John Kiely: ‘We’ve had a dose of reality. We have to process that and get going again’

Limerick manager says team must show they have learned lessons when they take on Tipperary on Sunday

The hallways of The Abbey School in Tipperary town will let John Kiely know on Monday morning. The principal has had the bragging rights around these parts for quite some time now, but Sunday provides the locals with their latest shot at scaling the green wall.

Not that Kiely needs any added forewarning, the Limerick manager is only too aware of Tipperary’s upward trajectory under Liam Cahill. Tipp on the rise and threatening to readjust the local power dynamic by making a play for the provincial throne, it’s a tale as old as hurling.

“If they win, they’ll definitely wear their jerseys the day after,” smiles Kiely when asked about the chatter in the school for Tipp-Limerick games.

“It just creates a great atmosphere and great buzz around the place. That’s important too, you know.


“The boys in the school are very capable of having a cut! It’s very good-natured, it’s great banter, great fun and a great occasion. It hasn’t always been that the fixture has fallen within the school year. This year it does, which is great.

“We have a past pupil in Johnny Ryan now playing for Tipperary, which is brilliant for the school and brilliant for his family and brilliant for his club, Arravale Rovers.

“We want to encourage young people to play hurling, we have been actively trying to do that on a constant basis in the school for many years. The more young fellas that we can see with a hurley in their hand, the better.”

But it’s not all hurleys and sliotars. In January of this year The Abbey won the overall award in the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition for their research on the impact of secondary school education on adolescent life and development.

“The project was based on a continuous study of young people’s perceptions of themselves and their wellbeing in school and the support that second-level schools supply to students in terms of their physical and mental wellbeing,” says Kiely.

“It was all done during Covid, over a three-year period. There were 2,500 survey respondents from schools all over the country. It has been fantastic for school. We had a fantastic homecoming.”

Homecomings are something Kiely has become quite familiar with in recent years. Limerick are this season aiming to claim an incredible fourth successive All-Ireland senior hurling title, something never before achieved by the county. Only Cork and Kilkenny have previously managed to collect four on the bounce.

But before talk of Liam MacCarthy, Limerick must negotiate safe passage through Munster, which on the back of their loss to Clare last time out has become a little trickier than might have been imagined at the outset. Defeat to Tipperary in Thurles on Sunday could be catastrophic to Limerick’s ambitions.

Their lacklustre championship showings to date have given hope to the chasing pack that perhaps Limerick’s star might be on the wane, though that is possibly more wishful thinking on their part. Either way, Kiely never entertained the notion his team had an aura of invincibility.

“I think that aura mightn’t be necessarily held in the opposition camps, I don’t think that exists in the other camps,” he says.

“We don’t allow those narratives to come into our thinking because they are not real, they are just perceptions, opinions and speculation. They don’t mean anything really when you are in a battle and need to win a puckout and get some dirty ball. We are more performance-orientated. Thinking about what we are going after each Sunday.

“Our efficiency in front of goal was a bit down [against Clare], just over 50 per cent. That’s not a high enough level, that’s the simple fact of it.

“The Munster championship is very competitive, extraordinarily competitive for every point you can get on the board. Our focus now is to see where the next two points are available and get ourselves ready for that. We will be doing everything in our power to earn those next two points.”

Limerick beat Waterford 1-18 to 0-19 in their opening game and their final fixture in the group stages will be at home to Cork. A victory over Tipp (who have 3pts) would put Limerick on four points. Clare (4pts) host Cork (3pts) in Ennis this Sunday, so there should be a clearer picture of how the group might shake out after this weekend’s games.

And Kiely is confident his players can respond this Sunday to the disappointment of losing to Clare just over two weeks ago.

“They are extremely humble,” he says. “They understand that as well, they are very much aware of the need to perform to a certain level in order to be successful and if you don’t, you won’t be.

“That’s the reality of it, we have had a real dose of reality the last few days so we have to absorb that, process that and get going again.”