A DECADE AGO, Paul Kinnerk had his first taste of All-Ireland hurling final day as a coach.

He watched on as the Clare minor team he had helped prepare produced a power-packed display, yet they fell just short of Kilkenny by two points in that 2010 showdown.

If defeat was a tough experience to absorb in an All-Ireland decider, it has not been one he has grown used to as a coach.

Yesterday in Croke Park, Kinnerk celebrated once more as Limerick reached their latest hurling milestone.

The Limerick setup savoured the feeling of immense satisfaction that stems from winning a second All-Ireland, backing up the achievement of their breakthrough win in 2018.

Limerick players Peter Casey and Sean Finn celebrate their All-Ireland final success.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

For Kinnerk, a central component in their success with his coaching influence, it was a further addition to a glittering CV. In the space of nine seasons he has accumulated six All-Ireland hurling titles as a coach, divided equally between the senior and U21 grades. For a 35-year-old that is an amazing achievement.

Paul Kinnerk Coaching Honours List 

  • All-Ireland senior – 2013, 2018, 2020.
  • All-Ireland U21 – 2012, 2013, 2014.
  • Munster senior – 2019, 2020.
  • Munster U21 – 2012, 2013, 2014.
  • Munster minor – 2010, 2011.
  • National League – 2016, 2019, 2020.

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Kinnerk’s playing background was in Gaelic football, double-jobbing as a member of the Limerick senior squad during Maurice Horan’s time at the helm with his Clare underage team responsibilities. In 2016 he came on as a substitute to help his club Monaleen claim the Limerick senior football title.

Paul Kinnerk and Ger Quinlan in action in the Munster football semi-final in 2012.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

By that juncture he had already forged a strong coaching reputation with his work for Clare. That minor input in 2010 had originated from a recommendation by Alan Cunningham after he witnessed Kinnerk’s work with Harty Cup teams in St Caimin’s in Shannon. Cunningham was part of the management group with Limerick yesterday and is another high achiever after steering Na Piarsaigh to the All-Ireland club title in 2016.

Clare helped Kinnerk firmly establish his credentials, working with those minor players as they rebounded to dominate the U21 grade between 2012 and 2014, and then reach the senior summit with 2013.

But since he was drawn back to his native county, Limerick have benefitted hugely. John Kiely drafted him in as a cornerstone of Limerick’s coaching plans after being installed as senior boss in late 2016.

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John Kiely and Paul Kinnerk celebrate Limerick’s All-Ireland hurling final success.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

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It didn’t translate into immediate success, losing their only two championship games in 2017, but since then Limerick have flourished under his tutelage. Declan Hannon lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup yesterday evening, the sixth time he has grasped silverware after a major hurling final win in the last 28 months. 

Shane Dowling described Kinnerk as ‘phenomenal’ on today’s edition of The42 GAA Weekly and spoke in glowing terms about the training methods devised by him. Paul Browne, who retired from the Limerick setup last November, has referenced how the small-sided games in training have been critical to their development, with Kinnerk moving between different areas of emphasis, whether it be a target for touches of the sliotar of a focus on stopping your direct marker.

The Limerick camp talk about how their training ground environment seeks to replicate match-day situations. That is reflected in how their players are the best at present in working passing sequences in tight confines, coping with tackling from opponents and turning over players in possession.

They have thrived when it comes to games and won all three key trophies on offer in a turbulent 2020 season. They raised an average of 28 white flags across their five championship games and at the back kept clean sheets in their last three matches.

The mix of offensive brilliance – typified by Gearoid Hegarty, Aaron Gillane and Tom Morrissey this year – allied to the defensive proficiency of Seán Finn, Diarmaid Byrnes and Kyle Hayes, made for a combination that proved unbeatable this season.

Their players will get the plaudits in the off-season and John Kiely’s management approach is central to their dominance.

But the coaching brilliance of Kinnerk is also instrumental.

His personal All-Ireland hurling winning run continues.

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