Limerick manager John Kiely believes his side have now answered their critics who questioned their commitment following their success in 2018.
The Treaty men were crowned Munster champions in LIT Gaelic Grounds on Sunday afternoon following a comprehensive 2-26 to 2-14 win over Tipperary.
Kiely reinstalled key men Gearoid Hegarty, Declan Hannon, Cian Lynch and Graeme Mulcahy for the clash following their defeat to the Premier County just two week’s ago, their second loss in the Munster Championship.
The Galbally native maintains that questions were being “secretly” asked about his side over whether or not they could return to Croke Park but believes that those doubts have been fully dispelled given the manner of the 12-point win.
“Everything we’ve done since last August has been about getting back there, be it timing our training, where we took our break, our holidays, everything has been about trying to get back to Croke Park. The minute the All Ireland was over the big question of us was ‘can they get back there?’
“Secretly, that’s the question everyone was asking of us. A lack of hunger, the lack of desire to win, and all the other doubts that have been aimed at these guys, they’ve answered them now and they’re emphatic and we’re really looking forward to getting back to Croke Park for this All Ireland semi-final.”
Despite the large deficit, Tipperary were hugely competitive during the opening 20 minutes of the encounter. Seamus Callanan hit the net following a superb ball from Noel McGrath while John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and Jason Forde were also lively.
Limerick led by two points at the break following a goal from Peter Casey but Tipp responded early in the second half with a John McGrath goal. Crucially, Tipperary failed to capitalise on the momentum that provided, instead it was Limerick who hit the next three points.
Kiely feels that was a pivotal moment in the game.
“I thought that was going to be a key response, whether we would respond quite quickly after that and our response was really, really good. We got a couple of quick points that nullified the goal. We started to enjoy the work and you could see that in them.
“We were very fresh at half-time, the lads weren’t exhausted and I knew we were going to get a really good shift.
“Fellas really rallied into it, there was a massive turnover. Kyle had a goal chance from Aaron and it was a great save, Brian Hogan with two, Brian and Nickie both pulled off brilliant saves today, incredible. We went up the field, back of the net, six-point turnover in the matter of a few seconds.
“I was concerned at that stage about whether it would turn into one of those games that you should have put away and didn’t and regretted it but we showed great composure after that goal, kept working and we eventually found more space and time on the ball and took our scores well in the last quarter.”
Limerick now find themselves as the current holders of the Liam MacCarthy Cup, the Allianz League title and the Munster Cup for the first time in 80 years.
You might think that this team wouldn’t get too caught up in records but for Kiely and his side, it is a significant achievement.
“I take a lot of stock in it. We spent a lot of those 80 years waiting for one trophy never mind two or three of them coming along!
“It is a nice achievement but if you have an ambitious bunch who are willing to work very, very hard, that’s the type of thing you should be aiming to do. We’ll enjoy tonight and we’ll park it during the week and leave the Munster final behind us.”