Limerick manager John Kiely was born in 1972, in 1973 his county won an All-Ireland title. For the rest of his lifetime, he bore witness as they repeatedly failed to do so again. Until today.
A 3-16 to 2-18 victory over Galway means the 2018 Liam McCarthy Cup is headed Shannonside. Deserved victors, it was Declan Hannon who ensured Eamonn Grimes is no longer the last Limerick captain to climb the Hogan Stand and give a victory speech.
Speaking to RTE Sport after the game, Kiely hailed the group's belief to finally bridge a 45-year gap: "We felt for the last 45 years that we were second-class citizens when it came to hurling. We were always the bridesmaids and today we got over the line. This group has a phenomenal belief in its own ability."
After the game, former All-Ireland winning coach Liam Sheedy credited sports performance psychologist Caroline Currid for instilling 'the inner belief' Limerick needed. Her expertise is renowned having working with the All-Ireland winning Dublin, Tipperary and Tyrone teams in the past. Limerick's entire backroom team was skilled, as former Clare star Brendan Bugler told Balls.ie. He praised selector Paul Kinnerk whose 'fingerprints' are all over this successful team's offensive unit. Kiely created an atmosphere and performance unit primed to succeed.
A look at their dressing room wall material reinforces that reality. This is a set-up that considers key performance indexes game-to-game and adjusts accordingly. Set targets with regard to goals, intensity and puck-out success rates are posted on the walls. Each player gets their photo above their designated space, the entire 36 matter.
An All-Ireland winning dressing room pic.twitter.com/leMx99ETYM
— Matt O'Callaghan (@MattOCall) August 19, 2018
Last week, Kiely told the Irish Examiner he was against set panel restrictions.
I have an issue with the 26-man panels for example. I can’t change the rules but I can certainly air my disapproval with the fact that we have 36 players training and busting their ass and making a huge contribution who are equally as valuable as any man that starts in the match-day 15.
Yet he can’t even have his name in the programme. I have an issue with that, it’s wrong and they should get a jersey and the should be sitting on the bench.
This was a group wholly committed to one dominant goal. As they demonstrated against Cork and Kilkenny, the precision and controlled approach from management transfers to the field. Even when they went behind, they did not panic and stuck to the process.
The entire emphasis was on facilitating this unit to be the best they can be. For 65 minutes, they dominated a team who were two years undefeated in championship hurling. In the end, they deservedly crossed the line as victors. From top to bottom, Limerick prepped admirably and today was their just reward.