Sunday 26 May 2019

Limerick boss John Kiely explains why he 'didn't allow mobile phones to take over' ahead of final glory

Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates
Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates

Conor McKeon

JOHN Kiely wants to put it on the record.

It's not that he was misunderstood, per se.

He just wants to outline the thought process behind his press conference after the All-Ireland semi-final when he threatened to "shut the whole thing down", in advance of the final should anybody in that room contact any of his players.

And here, in the lobby of the bustling Citywest Hotel on the morning-after-the-night-before, is the ideal opportunity.

Supporters have begun to emerge. A handful of Limerick players pose for photos outside the front before they bring Liam MacCarthy on a visit to Crumlin Hospital.

The party is in temporary recess. The final leg of a 45-year journey home hasn't yet begun.

So Kiely orders a coffee and takes a seat.

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"We've been through the crappy banquets, where you have nothing to show," he points out before revisiting that press conference.

"On a personal level, number one after the semi-final was a very difficult situation," he begins, describing the aftermath of the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork, when he entered the media centre in Croke Park still very clearly wired from all the drama that had just unfolded.

"You're being pulled and dragged, left, right and centre, fired into a room full of reporters and I'm a fighter.

"So when I'm put into a corner, I will fight. That's the bottom line.

"I fought that day because everybody came down off those benches and landed on with their (recording) devices and my instinctive reaction was to fight and protect.

"I'm a protector, I'm a teacher, I'm a parent," Kiely goes on.

"I wanted to protect the people that mean most to me and I was protecting the Limerick players.

"That was my reaction. That's who I am.

Manager John Kiely with the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Manager John Kiely with the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"The people that know me most will know that's what my initial reaction will always be is to protect the players.

"That was why that happened. I've no issue with it. I was quite happy with it afterwards, I've no issue with it whatsoever."

As it went, six players had contacted Kiely by 11 o'clock the next morning relaying requests of precisely the nature he had warned against.

Their time was too precious, Kiely asserted, to be diverted from preparing for an All-Ireland final, even for a second.

And when he lists the internal triumphs of an incredible year, Kiely repeats and emphasises "we didn't allow the phones to take over", as one of them.

"We simplified things," he elaborates, "We took out a lot of the rubbish that was in there.

"We kept communication to a minimum instead of bombarding these lads with communication.

"They're only 20, 21, 22," Kiely points out.

"Kyle Hayes doesn't want 20 texts a day, he just wants to know where he is to be on a Tuesday and a Friday – ‘that's it, boss, leave me alone'.

"So we left him alone.

"I didn't speak to the players this week on my own. We left them alone. Players need to be left alone. If I ring them, they could spend four or five hours and they're thinking about what the conversation was about.

"So that's a whole load of bloody energy wasted. It doesn't need to be done.

"At the end of the day, you need to trust them to go out on the field and do the job and play his part on the field, which he does."

So Kiely's mixture of guard-dog protectiveness for and inherent trust in his players has finally unleashed the potential of the county's best hurlers.

Or at least in the context of this season anyway.

"I said it last week, I just wanted the lads to be the best team that they could be yesterday," he adds.

"Is that the best they'll ever be? No, they'll be better.

"There's loads of room for improvement in our team, you know. We'd 20 wides like.

"We can surely do a bit better than that next year."

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