Hurling & Camogie

John Kiely: Limerick still have ‘a lot of hard yards’ to make up as they prepare to face Antrim in National League opener

Saffrons facing trip to Tipp to take on All-Ireland champions

Limerick's John Kiely has navigated the team brilliantly this season Picture: Philip Walsh.
Kiely crop Limerick manager John Kiely has admitted that his side are behind where they would like to be in their preparations for the new season

John Kiely says his Limerick side will have to embrace a heavy training schedule during the Allianz Hurling League to make up “a lot of hard yards”.

The All-Ireland champions lost some ground in their January preparations with the triple postponement of their Munster Hurling League meeting with Cork.

First delayed due to fog at Mallow, then a frozen pitch at Rathkeale, the match was eventually cancelled after it fell foul of a waterlogged pitch at the West Limerick venue. That also ruled out a potential final against Waterford for the victors.

It left the Treatymen lacking game-time ahead of their National League opener against Antrim on Sunday, as they lost to Tipperary by 3-27 to 1-20 in the Dillon Quirke Foundation challenge match at Semple Stadium at the weekend.

“We would have loved to have had more game-time in January, to be honest with you,” said Kiely.

“But the weather is the weather and January is January so we just have to take it on the chin and move on.

“We really needed the game. You could see that from us. We’re not sharp. We’ve a lot of work to do.

“We’re only a couple of weeks into our pre-season at this stage but clearly Tipp are further along their road of preparation than we are.

“For us, it’s back to the grindstone on Tuesday night. We’ve a lot of hard yards to make up.”

Darren Gleeson has much to ponder ahead of 2024 Picture Mark Marlow.
Darren Gleeson takes his Antrim team to Tipperary to face All-Ireland champions Limerick on Sunday

They will, Kiely insists, be taking the defence of their League title seriously as they begin their campaign against Antrim on Sunday in Thurles.

But it won’t be at the expense of the training load required to get his side in peak condition for later in the year.

“We want to win every game we play, no matter what competition it’s in. That’ll never change.

“The emphasis will clearly be on working hard right the way through it. We can’t take the foot off the pedal in terms of our preparations.

“There’ll be a lot of hard work to be done and we’ll probably use a broad depth of panel in order to try and get fellas through the campaign at the same time but listen, we’ll take it week by week.”

Of his All-Ireland-winning first 15, only Dan Morrissey, Gearóid Hegarty, and David Reidy have been among the 32 players who saw action against either Clare or Tipp in January.

Kiely has been keeping an eye on the future with his selections and won’t be hurried into trimming his squad.

“We’ve a lot of players on board. You saw a lot of new names out there. At the minute, they’re trying to put their hand up and be included on the panel going forward.

Limerick's Gearoid Hegarty with the Liam Mac Carthy Cup, won for a record-equalling fourth consecutive year.
Gearóid Hegarty is one of only a few of Limerick's All-Ireland team who have returned to action so far this year

“I’ve no particular date set yet for when we’re going to tidy it up but there’ll be another couple of weeks in it at least.

“It’s always something that’s under review anyway because fellas pick up injuries and you need fellas to come in. If you have a number of injuries, you need to have enough players to get your work done too so it’s a mixed bag.”

They will travel back to Semple Stadium for their League opener against the Saffrons after the Gaelic Grounds was ruled out due to repairs being carried out on the pitch.

“That remedial work has to be given a chance to bed down and for it to recover,” said Kiely.

“You couldn’t play enough of hurling in Thurles, it’s as simple as that. It’s a fabulous field, a fabulous venue, so we’re delighted Tipperary were kind enough to give us the venue for the game.

“We look forward hopefully to getting off to a better start than we did this week.

“We’ll have to build on this week because it wasn’t good enough. We’ll have to try and pick it up again next week.”