Mikey Kiely in action for Ballybrown in their 2016 Limerick SHC final defeat to Patrickswell
JUST like 14 Limerick players, coach Mikey Kiely seeks a second All Ireland U-21 hurling championship title win this Saturday.
Back in 2013, the Ballybrown man was strength and conditioning coach to a star-studded Clare side with Tony Kelly, David McInerney, Podge Collins and Shane O’Donnell.
His stay in The Banner also returned a Clare SFC and SHC double with Cratloe.
At just 27, Kiely has also already worked with the Limerick senior footballers and the Limerick Underage Hurling Academy.
This time last year he was S&C coach under Pat Donnelly when Limerick reached the All Ireland MHC final.
All that on top of continuing to hurl with Ballybrown in the Limerick SHC and progressing his studies.
“I interned with the Limerick footballers under Andy O’Neill in 2012 while I was doing my under grad in IT Tralee and it was word of mouth got me the position with Clare. I had the pleasure of training Paul Kinnerk with the Limerick football team and it was from a recommendation from him that I went in with the now Clare senior management of Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney at U-21 level,” outlined Mikey Kiely.
“It was a fantastic experience the players were unbelievably talented and the two in management I would have learned an awful lot from, especially in terms of man-management and communication. I was fortunate enough they had a team of All Stars that same year but it’s very similar to the standard we have here in Limerick this year.”
Kiely was just 23 when Clare won that 2013 U-21 title.
”I was at an age where I had just come out of the U-21 grade and knew the pitfalls and distractions of that age level in terms of social life, social media and college. At the time I was able to bring some of my own experiences,” he explained.
Kiely hurled inter-county with Limerick in 2010 – Leo O’Connor was manager and current U-21 manager Pat Donnelly was a selector.
With a Masters in Strength and Conditioning from LIT completed, Donnelly and Kiely joined up again for the 2016 minor campaign and the Ballybrown man had no hesitation and continuing their link when this season’s U-21 management was being assembled.
Kiely has now expanded his remit – combining the strength and conditioning role with hurling coaching, assisted by Maurice O’Brien and Brian Foley.
“I think it works really well in that there is no divide between the strength and conditioning and the coaching. I can attain all the physical fitness work through small sided games and through hurling so we have very little isolated fitness work. We get through high intensity repeated efforts in hurling and small-sided games where players are making decisions under pressure and in match intensity,” he said.
Kiely is currently under-taking a PHD in WIT.
“I’ve always loved the practical side of things and while I was in academia I was always tipping away on the practical side of things. To be able to apply what you are learning from the books into training is great,” he believes.
He is also “trying to hurl”.
In 10-days time Kiely and Ballybrown play champions Patrickswell in the Limerick SHC quarter final – a repeat of their all-parish county final of last year.
”It’s not easy coming up against some of the U-21 players!” he admits.
”It’s probably an unusual perspective but we all love our hurling and what happens on the field, happens on the field and we still get on great outside of the field and that counts for everyone across the board in hurling. You are coaching them to break tackles and run past people and then they are doing it to you and you end up looking at the back of them - it’s great to be still playing but it is difficult when you are marking some of your own players,” he said.
Before Ballybrown’s quest to dethrone The Well, Kilkenny are in his sights.
“We would have planned to be here from early in the year but we would never have looked beyond all one game. We took every game as if it was a final and now it’s paid dividend. Our first two games were probably easier than we expected, Cork was an extremely tough battle and our first battle of the year and it was good to see the players get over that type of a challenge. Against Galway the intensity was risen again and it was a draw with two minutes to go and we ended up winning by four, so you can see the resilience and attitude of the players, which is everything you want from U-21 hurlers.”
He continues: “It’s difficult to quantify potential and especially in Limerick - sometimes when there is success we get ahead of ourselves but really it’s never as bad as it is and it’s never as good as it is. This team have a lot of quality but in terms of percentage it’s hard to quantify but there is a lot more in us in terms of executing what we work on in training, like tackling, delivering ball, retention of possession”.