Kiely adamant defeat will strengthen 'ambitious' Treaty's resolve to come back
A defiant John Kiely insisted his side's defeat to Kilkenny would "strengthen the resolve" of Limerick to come again.
It's hard to argue with that assessment. They weren't at their best, they weren't let get to their best, for which the high-water mark has to be their Munster final performance against Tipperary four weeks earlier, but even champions have a learning curve to follow and this felt like one.
Limerick end the season as the most convincing league and Munster champions for some time, yet they feel disappointed. Kiely is sure to have his phone ringing in the weeks ahead, with players on the other end of the line anxious to know when does it all get up and running again. That's a great position to be in.
"That defeat won't define that group. If anything, it will strengthen the resolve of this group to come back again," said the Limerick manager.
"They are a young bunch, they are very ambitious, they are very united. I've no doubt they'll come back again and they'll challenge again in the future."
Had it been a far greater physical challenge than anything they had experienced in Munster? Kiely paused before responding.
"With Kilkenny, you know what you are going to get. It is what it is on the tin. It is going to come at you and that is the bottom line.
"We pride ourselves on our work rate; Kilkenny pride themselves on their work rate. Our boys wouldn't shirk away from that level of physicality. We pride ourselves on trying to be in the ascendency in intensity levels during the games.
"That was the challenge that was laid down before us tonight. I think we responded in a defiant way. We refused to go away. There were periods where we could have just downed tools and said, 'to hell with it, we've enough done'. But the boys dug in and fought and fought right to the very end. On another night it could have gone to extra-time, but it didn't."
That it didn't was, perhaps, down to the collective failure of the officials to catch a Cillian Buckley deflection on a Darragh O'Donovan sideline that went 'wide'. Kiely said they knew at the time by the ball's flight path that it had taken a diversion.
"We knew straight away. We could see the ball was taking a certain flight, it changed, it flew off to a different angle. We knew it was after taking a touch, what can we do? The crowd on that side of the field, you could see from their reaction."
For Brian Cody, enjoying arguably his greatest managerial achievement given the circumstances, the progress of the young players he has placed so much faith in came down to what they had in their heads and hearts.
"It's either in a fella or it's not. You can't send out fellas there that you know in your heart and soul are never going to be able to do that," he said.
"It's about your character, but it's also about your ability to bring yourself to the field and play the game. And have the nerve to do it. The nerve is hugely important. Your head dictates so much about what happens out there and the lads are doing that very well."
Cody said he understood how the odds had to favour Limerick.
"There was no expectancy from anybody, apart from maybe the lads there (Kilkenny media). And that's understandable, I'm not trying to be smart by saying that because I always feel that the All-Ireland champions are entitled to the respect of being favourites whenever they tog out again.
"It wasn't a question of freedom, they've got to go out and try to throw the shackles off and play."
Cody felt the penalty call against Huw Lawlor had been "tough" and didn't push back against a suggestion that they had been on the wrong side of a few calls.
"The last day I was in here the same questions were being asked again and it seems to be a recurring theme.
"Like I said the last day and the previous day, I'm not going to start discussing referees or whinging, win or lose, because it gets you nowhere. Tough penalty call? Yeah, I would think so definitely."