Saturday 17 November 2018

Limerick's magnificent seven - Meet the men and women behind Treaty's push for first All Ireland since 1973

Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid makes a save from Cork’s Seamus Harnedy in the final moments of the All-Ireland SHC semi-final. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid makes a save from Cork’s Seamus Harnedy in the final moments of the All-Ireland SHC semi-final. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Eleven years have passed since their last All-Ireland SHC final appearance, but Limerick are back in the big time again with a new breed bidding to write their place in history and end a 45-year famine against reigning champions Galway on Sunday.

The Treaty’s success story is not an overnight one, however, and it has been cultivated through extensive work at underage academies over the past decade, culminating in their place in hurling’s 2018 showpiece event.

But who are those guiding the current crop behind the scenes and who are the key players that may bring Liam MacCarthy back to Shannonside for the first time since 1973?

John Kiely

A native of Galbally at the foot of the Galtee Mountains, Kiely was involved at intermediate, U-21 and senior level in a variety of roles for the guts of a decade before taking the senior manager's role for the 2017 season on a three-year term.

Having guided the Treaty to All-Ireland U-21 success in 2015, Kiely has overseen the introduction of a host of young talent into the fold with 11 of his squad from three years ago seeing action in their semi-final defeat of Cork.

Principal of the Abbey CBS in Tipperary town, the 46-year-old has served a fine apprenticeship in his native county and worked as a selector under John Allen when they secured Munster honours five years ago.

Kiely - on the extended Limerick panel in 1994 and a substitute in 1996 when they also fell at the final hurdle - succeeded TJ Ryan in the Limerick role and after already securing their passage out of Division 1B following eight seasons there, he will hope to lead them to the promised land.

Paul Kinnerk

Viewed as the mastermind behind Clare's three-in-a-row All-Ireland U-21-winning sides (2012-'14) and their surprise senior success in 2013, Kinnerk is an innovator in terms of hurling coaching.

It was a big coup for Kiely to tempt the Monaleen native back to his home county after a second spell with Clare's seniors and he is rated highly, with Banner ace Tony Kelly describing him as "up there as one of the best coaches or trainers I've ever worked with".

The St Caimin's PE and maths teacher - also head coach of Limerick's underage football academy and advisor to Limerick's underage hurling academy - preaches in the area of game-based coaching and his stamp is all over this Limerick side.

He may be involved for just the past two years, but Kinnerk has already helped to turn a youthful side into a well-oiled machine playing a high-energy possession game and by Sunday evening he may be an All-Ireland SHC-winning coach with two counties.

Joe O'Connor

One of the keys to effective strength and conditioning training is continuity, and Limerick have certainly achieved that with O'Connor in his fourth year working with the senior squad.

Credited with having Clare phenomenally fit when physical trainer for their 2013 All-Ireland SHC success - where he worked closely with Kinnerk before teaming up again with his native county - the Rathkeale native is lauded for his attention to detail.

Appointed head of athletic development with Kerry football's development squads last year, O'Connor is also an integral part of popular TV show 'Ireland's Fittest Family' as a sports and performance expert while also lecturing in exercise physiology at Institute of Technology, Tralee.

O'Connor brings a wealth of experience to the table having worked with Clare and Waterford's hurlers as well as Kerry's senior footballers and bids to oversee the physical preparation of another All-Ireland-winning side.

Caroline Currid

An All-Ireland Junior winner with Sligo's ladies footballers in 2006, Currid began delving into the area of sports psychology during her rehab from a cruciate knee ligament injury before it turned into her working passion.

Part of All-Ireland-winning backroom teams with Tyrone's footballers (2008), Tipperary's hurlers (2010) and Dublin's footballers (2011), the Grange native also worked with Irish rugby legend Paul O'Connell from 2008 until his retirement.

A former banker, Currid regularly travels around the world to keep up to date with the latest trends in sports psychology and she has been name-checked on several occasions by players and management for her part in the squad's progress.

Her experience of All-Ireland final day and the effects which the big occasion can have on a player's performance is a huge asset to Kiely as she looks to add another major title to her impressive CV.

Declan Hannon

One of the first things Kiely did after taking charge was to hand the No 6 jersey to Hannon. Centre-back has been a problem area for some years now and while it has taken him some time to bed in to the new role ad its demands, the Adare defender has helped to solidify their defence.

It has also allowed him to flourish as the 25-year-old had been playing hopscotch with a variety of positions in attack in previous years and was drifting in an out of games when he was needed most at vital stages.

When James Ryan made his inter-county retirement last November, Hannon replaced him as captain and bids to become the first Limerick skipper since Eamonn Grimes to successfully climb the Hogan Stand steps.

It's unlikely to faze him, however, as Hannon always exudes a quiet confidence and he has become the rock of their defence this season. His expected duel with Hurler of the Year Joe Canning may decide where Liam MacCarthy will reside this winter.

Cian Lynch

His breakthrough at senior level was well-touted and the hurling public didn't have to wait long to watch him explode onto the scene, winning man of the match in his first Munster SHC game when firing three points in their 2015 defeat of Clare.

It's fair to say the talented left-hander does things differently on and off the pitch and he subsequently showed his array of dazzling skills on the way to claiming Fitzgibbon Cup (2016-'17) and All-Ireland U-21 ('15 and '17) honours.

Allowed the freedom of the middle of the park when switched from attack this season, the Patrickswell wizard (nephew of the great Ciarán Carey) has replicated that form at senior level.

The 22-year-old has the ability to make the ball talk and rarely puts a foot wrong when in possession with his pinpoint passing setting up numerous attacks, while his mazy runs cause panic for the opposition. Could face David Burke and must put in another huge shift if they are to prevail.

Kyle Hayes

At a press event earlier this year, Hayes had no hesitation in saying that centre-back was his preferred position, but he's not making a bad fist of it at the opposite end of the pitch.

After switching from the full-forward line to No 11 this season, the Kildimo-Pallaskenry ace has helped to transform the Treaty attack and, as is the case with most modern-day centre-forwards, he adopts a deeper role while also being an effective weapon under puck-outs.

The 20-year-old makes use of his energy by regularly assisting his defence - and pulling the opposition centre-back further from his own goal - while he is a brilliant ball-carrier and distributor into attack.

Scoring is no problem either and if Gearóid McInerney is struggling for fitness just weeks after suffering from a calf tear, Hayes will be aiming to make life as uncomfortable as possible for him. His importance to Limerick defies his tender years.

Irish Independent

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