Wednesday 26 June 2019

Treaty's attacking riches can bring them Cats'scalp

John Kiely
John Kiely

By any metric, their Championship matches over the past two summers have been hugely significant moments in John Kiely's reign as Limerick manager.

When the embers had cooled in Croke Park last August on the Treaty's famine-breaking All-Ireland win and they had been anointed champions, it seemed odd to recall how Limerick had come so close to losing in the quarter-final to a quickly forgotten Kilkenny team in Thurles five weeks previously.

And while Kiely seems like the shrewdest brain in hurling just now, his first year - and the Championship losses to Clare and Kilkenny - hadn't exactly reflected well on his earliest work.

"I was waiting for the phone call to say, 'thanks for everything but we've decided to move on," he admitted this week.

"'We don't feel you're going to be the manager that brings us on'.

"I was waiting for the phone call and… there was a void of about three months of communication.

"So I was waiting but at the same time I was at home trying to figure out how can we improve things."

Hugely impressive as their All-Ireland win was, Limerick's ability to reform as a competitive League team the winter-after-the-autumn before is equally commendable.

Without Mike Casey or the cruciate-stricken Richie McCarthy, it looked as though Limerick might struggle at full-back for the early parts of the lap of honour but in their victories over Wexford and Tipperary so far, Seán Finn switched across from the corner with all the ease and comfort he demonstrated in his breakthrough season.

Aaron Gillane's form - 1-5 (0-3f) v Wexford, 0-9 (5f, 2 '65) v Tipperary - again came into sharp focus on Wednesday when he scored 1-12 (0-7f, 0-1 sideline) for Mary I in their Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final victory over NUIG.

Kyle Hayes, a substitute in Limerick's two League wins, is poised to see more action as this competition wears on but currently, Kiely possesses of a range of attacking options that outnumber and outgun Brian Cody's.

For all Kevin Kelly's accuracy from frees against Clare in Ennis two weeks back, Ger Aylward was the only one of Kilkenny starting forwards to excel.

On the plus side, James Maher looks nailed on for a midfield spot this summer.

But like every Kilkenny team under Cody, they never lacked for spark and chiselled a nine-point deficit down to one in injury-time.

That native determination means they won't give the champions anything soft today, but Limerick's superior quality just now is undeniable.

ODDS: Kilkenny 13/8, Draw 8/1, Limerick 4/6

VERDICT: Limerick

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