Wednesday 19 June 2019

Hate mail a thing of the past as Kiely basks in Treaty's golden year

Limerick manager John Kiely. Photo: Sportsfile
Limerick manager John Kiely. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It was only when John Kiely digested the stories sent to him from far-flung regions all over the world that it hit home to him just what Limerick had accomplished by finally getting their hands on Liam MacCarthy.

There was much talk in the build-up to this year's All-Ireland SHC final of the hate mail and poison pen letters sent to managers but that wheel has turned full circle for the Treaty boss.

The positive feedback has been overwhelming since their 45-year wait for All-Ireland glory ended and it's clear that some of the messages which landed his way have left him in no doubt about the power of the GAA.

"I got some lovely stuff, there's no too ways about it! One box is definitely bigger than the other now. There was probably a lot made of it (hate mail) but people have been fantastic," Kiely says.

"People from all over the world - Australia, America, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, we got letters of thanks and appreciation from all over the globe. People telling their own story. People in America without green cards who couldn't come home.

"They were heartbroken that they couldn't be there. And we met some of those people when we were over in Boston and Chicago and New York.

"We took great satisfaction that we were able to bring the Cup over to those people because they're almost in exile, if you like, because they can't come home. It meant a huge, huge amount to those people."

Some letters totally stopped him in his tracks and still "make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck" with one elderly lady from Cork sending a particularly poignant photograph.

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"They'd make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, reading it. Some very, very difficult stories that people had to tell of loss, missing out on their own parents' funerals and things like that. Real loss and some interesting things as well," the Galbally native says.

"A lady in Fermoy was cleaning out her at home at 92 years of age with her son and they came across two lovely pictures of Mick Mackey and John Mackey from 1945, taken in the pitch in Fermoy during a game against Cork. "They sent them on anonymously to me, I don't know who they are. Maybe they might make contact with their names because I've actually passed on those photographs to Dan and Tom Morrissey now.

"To the proper resting place for those photos right now. So two brothers, back with two brothers. Yeah, some lovely stuff and I'm very appreciative of all the things that came my way."

The maturity shown by a youthful Limerick squad to reach hurling's pinnacle against the odds seems to have been replicated by their exemplary behaviour off the pitch in the past four months.

There has been little hoopla with Kiely insisting that times have changed as most of their duties as champions are coming to an end with early signs of a "spin-off" to success.

"There's probably a lot that goes with being All-Ireland champions in terms of expectations around engagements to be fulfilled in terms of going to schools and colleges and hospitals and clubs especially," the 46-year-old says.

"They're pretty much all done now at this stage which is great. I met Donal O'Grady this week, he's involved with the underage academy, and I think they had 170 trying out for one age group and 150 for another age group.

"So there's a spin-off already in terms of youngsters looking to further themselves and challenge themselves to higher standards which is fantastic to see."

Kiely added: "You could count the number of nights that we were out on one hand, times have changed. The nature of celebrating All-Irelands has changed, fellas are busy with their clubs as well for months.

"A lot of lads are back at work, back in college, doing final year projects, doing teaching practice. They've a lot of demanding stuff going on for themselves that they're getting on with.

"I suppose it's not the same as what it used to be but we've still had a couple of great nights out and we'd a couple of days in Boston which we really enjoyed as well which was a nice bonus."

Kiely will confirm his panel for 2019 in the coming week ahead of their Co-Op Superstores Munster Senior Hurling League clash with Liam Sheedy's Tipperary in front of what is sure to be a decent crowd at the Gaelic Grounds next Friday night.

That - along with their second round clash with Kerry on December 20 - was brought forward to accommodate their team holiday in Mexico but one player who won't be playing any further part is stalwart Seamus Hickey, who retired from Treaty action earlier this week

The 31-year-old was an unused sub in this year's All-Ireland final but enjoyed a stellar inter-county career with Kiely full of praise for the swashbuckling Murroe Boher defender.

"It was just wonderful for him on a personal note that he could bow out winning an All-Ireland medal. He gave an awful lot to Limerick hurling, was a completely and utterly 100pc dedicated hurler," Kiely notes.

"He was a servant really is what you'd call him. He always did what was right for the team, what he was asked to do for the team. That was one of his main strengths really. Limerick owes him an awful lot for the service he's given."

Outlook

2019 will have a different outlook with Limerick now the hunted, not the hunter but Kiely expects his aspiring squad to revel in that task, although he's under no illusions that collecting back-to-back titles is a seismic one.

"It's going to be a huge challenge," he acknowledges. "But we've risen to any challenge that has been put in front of us in the last couple of years. The players have come through this phase really well.

"I'm really happy with where they're at. They're a very ambitious bunch of lads and we will really go and do our level best again, like we do all the time. Every time we play, we go out to win."

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