Limerick manager John Kiely has insisted that past form won’t be a factor when his side face Kilkenny in the All Ireland hurling semi-final on Saturday evening.
The All Ireland champions endured a mixed Munster round-robin campaign, suffering two losses to Cork and Tipperary before bouncing back to comprehensively beat the Premier County in the provincial final last month.
While Cork dominated their game against Limerick, the Rebels were subsequently beaten by Kilkenny in the All Ireland quarter-final, however, Kiely insists that result does not mean that Brian Cody’s side have one up on his.
“I don’t think anyone looks at it like that. The scenario of ‘we beat A, they beat C, A beats B’, that doesn’t work. These are all one-off games in their own right and it’s all about your performance on the day.
“It’s not about what you did the previous day or what you do the day after, it’s all about what you do on the day. For us, we have to get that performance right on the day.”
Limerick have defied all the odds since lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup last August. They dominated the Allianz League and comfortably overcame Waterford in the final before progressing to win their first Munster title since 2013.
On and off the field, the players have remained grounded and Kiely is proud of how the group have carried the mantle of All Ireland champions, though he insists they have put that title behind them.
“They’ve only responded in the most positive way possible and worked as hard as they possibly could. As manager, you can’t ask any more of them than that. They’re a really enjoyable bunch to be around, there’s great fun and great comradery there.
“But at the end of the day, we’re a very competitive bunch of people as well, we’re very driven in what we want to achieve and where you would rather be but in an All Ireland semi-final on a Saturday evening with Kilkenny to play?”
We don’t feel like we’re All Ireland champions right now because that was last year. This is this year. It’s the All Ireland series, it’s down to the semi-finals, it’s all about who’s going to be in that All Ireland final in five week’s time.
“As far as we’re concerned, we have to do all we possibly can on Saturday to try and get through our semi-final, that’s all we want to do. We know it’s going to take a huge effort from our players in order to take that step.
During last year’s All Ireland semi-final, Limerick found themselves trailing by six points in the closing 10 minutes against Cork but a stunning recovery, led by their bench, saw them into extra-time where they strolled past their Munster rivals.
Their bench is among the strongest in the country with names such as Shane Dowling, Darragh O’Donovan and Seamus Flanagan among those Kiely can introduce.
The Galbally native has encouraged his matchday squad to have as much as an impact this year, whether from the starting whistle or from the bench.
“We pride ourselves in putting an awful lot of emphasis on how important the panellists are, the players who wouldn’t start on a regular basis. Without those guys, we don’t have a team to finish these matches.
“It’s hugely important that those lads who are coming on are able to maintain the level of intensity, are able to take the game to the opposition, are able to take the vital scores to get us across the line.
“They know how important they are to us, I can assure you, because we remind them on a regular basis, we know how important they are.”