Since winning the Munster championship in 2013 and putting Kilkenny to the pin of their collars in the 2014 All Ireland semi-final, it is fair to say that Limerick have faded into the oblivion in terms of the hurling landscape.
It is difficult and downright unrealistic at this point to view the Shannonsiders as All Ireland contenders for 2017.
Ahead of their championship opener on Sunday, a Munster semi-final against local rivals Clare, Pundit Arena sat down with captain, James Ryan, and new manager, John Kiely. We picked their brains on what mood in the camp is like heading into this weekend.
The Treaty failed to gain promotion from Division 1B again this spring for the seventh consecutive season. They haven’t reached the All Ireland quarter-final stage for the past two years, falling to Dublin and Clare in the back door qualifiers, respectively.
Ryan knows for a traditionally proud hurling county such as Limerick, those returns simply are not good enough:
“It’s definitely been disappointing the last two years obviously going from 2013 and 2014 when there was a bit of consistency there.
“Look, as a player and as a supporter from the county, frustration can build in when you know there’s more in you as players and more in you as a team. But look, 2017 is the year we’re looking to get that bit of consistency back into our play,” the midfielder explained.
“That’s the aim, get a team performance, play well as a team and make the right decisions with the ball and get our tackle count up and things like that. They’re the aims that every team are making and we’re hoping to do the same.”
TJ Ryan’s three-year reign at the helm came to an end following last season’s disappointment and the appointment of John Kiely in his place has brought a sense of excitement, if not expectation back to the county. Kiely was the man who steered Limerick to that famous All Ireland Under-21 title in 2015.
We asked his skipper, Ryan, what has the new management team brought to the table so far this year?
“Every manager brings different things to the table without a doubt, they all have a different style. He’s a teacher himself, a principal of a school, so he’s well able to manage people.
“His man management is very good, his knowledge of all the players is very good, he knows all the under-21’s being their manager and he’s brought a selector from the under-21 team with him.
“We have Paul Kinnerk in, a new coach, so there’s new faces in this year and things have been freshened up there which always comes with a new manager.
“Things have definitely changed, hopefully for the better. Time will tell.”
So, what does the man himself have to say on Limerick’s prospects ahead of the clash with the Banner?
Reflecting on their league campaign inconsistencies, Kiely feels his side will take lessons from where they stumbled and use them to grow as the summer progresses while he is full of praise for the character and talent within his camp:
“We weren’t given much of a chance going down to Páirc Uí Rinn (playing Cork in league quarter-final) but there’s great resolve within the group and there’s fantastic ability within the group. We got a great performance down there that day.
“Listen, we would have been disappointed with our performance against Galway. On any metric of measurements we wouldn’t have been happy with how we played on that day in but these things happen, you move on.
“We learned from the experience and we’ll be hoping that learning experience will pay off when it comes to championship.”
On the matter of the upcoming game on Sunday, we quizzed the Treaty boss on the fact that there is perhaps a perception around Munster that Clare got the ‘handy draw’ when coupled with Limerick.
Kiely rubs his hands together and says with a grin from ear to ear:
“Yeah, sure if they think that, that’s okay.”
The 45-year-old continued to outline where the focus in his camp is aimed as they set out their stall for the championship throw-in:
“For us really, the focus is on getting the win and progressing to the Munster final. That’s the big prize at stake here along with a place in an All Ireland quarter-final.
“I think if you look back at the history books, there’s never too much between a Clare-Limerick clash.
“There’s a lot of rivalry there between the Clare boys and Limerick boys and I think we could be in for a rip-roaring contest on the day,” he concluded.
Just as the Limerick supporters will be hoping for a revival with the freshness of their new man in charge, we should all hope that Kiely’s prediction of a rip-roarer on Sunday comes to fruition. Following on from the Cork-Tipperary classic a fortnight ago, this Munster championship tie has a lot to live up to.
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