Tuesday 22 October 2019

Kiely on a learning curve in bid to stay out in front of pack

Treaty boss has looked to the League of Ireland for hints on how to deal with Limerick's hectic schedule

John Kiely’s Limerick team welcome a Cork side already fighting for their lives to the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Sportsfile
John Kiely’s Limerick team welcome a Cork side already fighting for their lives to the Gaelic Grounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When Tiger Woods won the Masters in Augusta in April, messages of congratulations rolled in from around the world - but perhaps the most unexpected one came from Limerick GAA's official Twitter account.

JP McManus was the link. He has had a long connection to the golfer and has been a huge backer of all things GAA in the county.

Limerick were only returning the favour. When the Treaty won the All-Ireland last August, Woods referenced that success and McManus in an interview.

"JP is one of my dearest friends and it's cool his Limerick team finally won the title as I know how passionate he is about his hurling as well as his love of horse racing and, of course, golf.

"I remember one year I was over for his Pro-Am and JP took me to a hurling match. I thought it was pretty neat but not a sport I would want to try.

"I try to keep in contact with him as much as our time allows but that's great news for JP and Limerick and I'm really pleased for him as JP just does so much for sport in Ireland," said Woods.

That is as far as the connection goes, John Kiely insists.

"I wasn't talking to Tiger I can assure you or Tiger wasn't talking to me!" Kiely laughs when asked about it.

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Still, in his desire to improve himself and his Limerick side, Kiely will look at any sport he thinks he can learn from. And there was a lesson in Woods' story around adversity and how to rise again after a fall.

"For him to come through the challenges he has come through in a career where he plummeted to the depths where he was 1,199th in the world rankings.

"He had a series of operations on his back and was able to turn it around and win the most prestigious golf tournament in the world and was one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time.

"I just love listening to other people speak about their sport and there's learnings there, lots of learnings and I'm always cognisant of listening to those sports people because most often than not they are in a professional environment and we're not.

"So obviously if there's people operating in a professional environment, they are worth listening to and they are facing the same hurdles and challenges as we are, trying to get consistent and high-level performance on a repeated basis.

"Why is it a golfer does well one weekend and misses the cut the week after? What do players who miss the cut repeatedly do to make the cut a different weekend?"

He's looked to people closer to home too. The way the schedule falls, Limerick will play three championship games in 14 days which will go a long way towards deciding their summer.

And he looked to the League of Ireland for tips on how to deal with such a hectic schedule.

"It is what you make of it," he said of their timetable in Munster.

"And I know that having spoken to people involved in League of Ireland soccer.

"They play maybe five games in 20 days or seven games in 20 days in Dundalk's case maybe.

"They could be involved in Europe, the FAI Cup or involved in the league and they only get three or four days to recover. You tell them boys that they have a week to recover from a match and they'll say, 'this is an inordinate amount of time, we don't scarcely need it'. So it is what you make of it.

"They are playing 90 minutes and only have panels of 16, 17 or 18 players. They often only have 14 or 15 fit players, and it's all about perception and it really is what you make of it.

"If you make it out to be an insurmountable task, it will be an insurmountable task. The challenge is laid down, we have three games to play in the back end of the championship, we have a strong panel and we'll maybe use the panel a bit better and wiser than we did last year."

In that regard, there were lessons from last year's revamped Munster championship. Limerick lost their last game to finish third in the table and in hindsight, Kiely feels he should have delved deeper into his squad.

"You can't get any work done really the week of the games, you are just ticking over.

"You still need to keep an eye on the players who maybe aren't starting.

"They are the most important group of players if you like, because they are the guys that you are going to rely on to finish matches or start the next one.

"That's the tricky part - watching players who didn't start the first game and getting them ready for the second game, because you are going to need to use more of the players.

"If I had any learning last year I think I could've used a few more players during the championship in that series of games."

Limerick haven't put a foot wrong since claiming Liam MacCarthy with their league title win underlining the talent Kiely has at his disposal.

They start their defence of the All-Ireland at the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Sunday when they welcome a Cork side already fighting for their lives after last weekend's defeat to Tipperary.

And it's not lost on Kiely that Cork were the only side to beat them in the league this season.

"The championship is very evenly balanced in Munster, any team can beat any other on a given day - we saw the difference the width of a goalpost made in two matches - so we have to make sure our preparation and focus are right for May 19. 

"Cork beat us in the league and that's a reflection of what can happen when the standard of your performance dips - you'll be punished by these teams, that's the way it is."  

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