by Mal Keaveney
JOHN KIELY boasts of a fine managerial record heading into Sunday’s historic Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final with Tipperary at the LIT Gaelic Grounds.
This famed son of Galbally is now closing in on his 50th competitive game in charge, with an overall 70 per cent match win rate. This stands at 85 per cent over the last two seasons during which the prized All-Ireland and National League successes were achieved.
Always a useful player in his own right – he played both senior football (which he captained) and hurling (Munster medallist in 1994) with the county – it will be for his excellent managerial skills that Kiely will enrich the GAA history books in times to come.
It was a self-referral to current Munster and then Limerick Chairman Billy Lenihan ten years ago that saw Kiely step onto the managerial ladder.
He spent two years with the Limerick intermediates, beaten in one of those seasons by eventual All-Ireland champions Clare.
In 2011, Kiely was involved with Leo O’Connor as the duo guided the Shannonsiders to Munster Under-21 glory. He later succeeded Ciarán Carey in this job and steered the young guns to Munster success in 2014. It earned him Munster GAA Manager of the Manager of the Year.
In between, he had been a senior selector with John Allen.
Kiely landed the plumb job in the Autumn of 2016, and what has followed for success-starved Limerick supporters has been nothing short of magical: promotion from Division 1B; National League triumph and that never-to-be-forgotten 3-16 to 2-18 defeat of Galway in the All-Ireland Hurling Final last August.
Kiely is fortunate to have a superb backroom team in the likes of Brian Geary, Alan Cunningham, Paul Kinnerk, Timmy Houlihan and Aonghus O’Brien.
In Tipperary, former All-Ireland winning manager Liam Sheedy’s return has been boosted by the availability of top coach Eamon O’Shea.