JOHN KIELY has said his Limerick heroes were afforded a “rare privilege” to be allowed hurl their way to a second All-Ireland title in three seasons in the midst of a pandemic.
The manager who has utterly transformed small ball fortunes on Shannonside deflected a question about the potential of his squad to achieve even greater things in the wake of today’s pulverising 0-30 to 0-19 triumph over Waterford in Croke Park.
“I am going to enjoy this one now anyway,” Kiely demurred. “Whatever will come after it, we'll worry about it.
“Living in the world we are living in right now and look at the year we have had - it has just been incredible, so difficult.
“We are so fortunate to be able to do what we are doing over the last few months. When you look at musicians and people in the entertainment industry and the hospitality industry, and hotels, pubs, these people that can't even open their businesses. We have been able to go out and play matches.
“We have got to put everything into perspective. It is a fantastic achievement for our players in Limerick, but there are bigger things and, please God, 2021 is going to herald the arrival of the vaccine and a return to normality for all our people and all our society, and get people back into stadiums.
“I am sure they will be queueing up to buy tickets for the league,” he predicted, “if we can get that vaccine rolled out.
“We have to accept this is a rare privilege to be here for us and to be able to partake in today's game. We always aimed to appreciate that in the last two weeks and to give it a performance it merited, given the opportunity we had.”
From the game’s frenzied opening stanza, culminating in a point by Tom Morrissey after 40 seconds, the Limerick boss sensed that his players were firmly in the zone.
“The very first play, that first 40 seconds, it was a very defining moment in the game,” Kiely proclaimed. “We took it forward, there was huge resistance put up against us and we still managed to get the score. That set the tone for us.”
He expanded: “We had obviously very high expectations of ourselves in terms of how hard we wanted to work on the day, and I think the players delivered on that in spades.
“They worked really, really hard from start to the finish, right across the pitch. It was a very defiant performance. Whatever was fired at the boys, they found a way to cope with it.
“Going forward, I think we showed fantastic teamwork in terms of our support running and our lines of running, just wave after wave of attacker.
“Overall, very, very proud of the lads. They have worked so, so hard. Last year was a huge disappointment to us. To come back into it straight away and the resolve they have shown, the determination they have shown, the appetite for work they have shown right throughout the year has just been immense.”
Asked if it was harder to climb Everest second time around, Kiely replied: “It is like being on Mars, there is a mountain around every corner. Sure, every year is a tough year. That's inter-county hurling and football for you.”
And on the subject of bouncing back from last year’s bitter semi-final pill against Kilkenny, he reflected: “I have always said to the lads that we have just got to keep working hard and if you work hard enough, you will keep giving yourself opportunities.
“Last year was an opportunity, we didn't take it. This year, we got an opportunity and we took it. It is about giving yourself opportunities and if you keep giving yourself enough of opportunities, you'll take enough chances eventually.
“You are not going to take them all, we know that. The challenge that is out there is incredible from all teams. But if you give yourself a chance, you have some hope. That's really it.”