“Justifiably they are favourites but that’s not going to deter us” – Kiely

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John Kiely. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile.

JOHN KIELY simply doesn’t leave things to chance. In the lead up to the All-Ireland semi final, he gave an insight into how far he and his management team plan ahead.

Reaching the last four of the 2018 Championship is not a surprise to him. It’s something they have planned for. “I think every year that we sit down to plan the season we plan to the very end,” the Galbally man explains.

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“You have to have that expectation of yourself. We have planned to go through the next two weeks and to be in a semi final, how we got there, you plan for all eventualities. You take every game on its merits as it comes along but we go out there each day believing that we can win. Why wouldn’t we? Why would we bother unless we could?”

The level of planning is hardly a surprise. The process of preparing began in the few weeks after the All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Kilkenny but he is also keen to highlight that the improvements this year have been ‘expected’ and he admits ‘we should be better, of course we should.”

Kiely is always keen to play down expectations in the lead up to any game and his preparation before the All-Ireland semi final has been no different. Immediately after the historic victory over Kilkenny, thoughts turned to Cork.

“For us, straight after the game our focus just turns to the next round and that’s the way it is. It’s knockout Championship.You keep going and you look to the next challenge. We are very much focused on the next game in Croke Park and that’s pretty much it. Get ourselves as well prepared as we possibly can and put in the best performance that we possibly can and see where that takes us.”

The Limerick manager was also keen to highlight that the team’s will to win every game they play has been key to their improvement and that can be traced back as far as the Munster League Final win over Clare last January.

“Everything we did was key. Having a good Munster League was key. It was important to us to get off to a good start to the season. We had a lot of work put in and we went out to win every single game that we have played this year. I think everybody bought into that desire to be better from week to week and still keep going for the win week to week as well.

“It doesn’t always work out like that. We lost to Tipperary in the League semi final in extra time. We did want to be in a League Final but we didn’t get the result. We went to Ennis looking of the win and that didn’t work out for us either. You put your best foot forward and if it’s good enough on the day you will get the result. If it’s not, it’s not.”

One area that has been a major plus for Kiely and his management team throughout the season is the strength of his panel. Peter Casey, Shane Dowling and William O’Donoghue came off the bench to play crucial roles in the Kilkenny victory and the Limerick boss says that it’s vital to have ability to spring players when needed.

“We have been looking for that all year. I suppose every team is really at the end of the day. There is a lot of credit due to the lads with they way they did come in and get involved in the game as quickly as they did. It was a very intense game and those games can be hard for lads to come off the bench and make an impact but all credit to the three of them for the impact that they made. It’s expected but it is difficult and we understand the challenge of that.

Of course, Limerick and Cork have already played out one classic this summer with Kyle Hayes’ injury time point grabbing a draw for 14 man Limerick in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. However, Kiely believes that the game with the Rebels earlier in the year will have no bearing on the game in Croke Park.

“A lot of the games take on a life of their own and no two games are the same so drawing comparisons to the first game and expectations for this game – they’re won’t be any comparison.

“They are different games, you will have different players. There is a different prize at stake as well. That game was part of the round robin series and everybody was caught up in that bubble at the time.

“This is different now. Teams have had a little bit of time to progress again further. They have played in a Munster Final since and they have won that and played extremely well in it. Their form has been very impressive throughout the summer and they haven’t lost a game yet in the Championship.”