BEING in the losing dressing-room is not something he’s overly used to, but Eoin Larkin is confident that Kilkenny can get back to winning ways.
“We stayed going right to the end,” he said. “That’s the positive we have to take from this; we never died. The spirit in this dressing-room is a strong as ever and that showed in the second half.”
It was a shock for some that Kilkenny went down to the Dubs in Portlaoise, but Larkin was quick to point out that after all the highs there were bound to be a few lows.
“We’ve had great success over the years,” he said, speaking in the aftermath of Saturday’s Leinster semi-final loss to Dublin.
“The majority of the team has been there for those seasons, but every team has to be beaten in sport. It was our turn this time but hopefully we’ll be able to pick it up again next week.”
After getting out of jail with a last gasp point in the drawn game the Cats were looking to lift their game for the replay.
“We were disappointed with our own performance last week,” was Larkin’s analysis. “We didn’t play as well as we could and we felt a little lucky to get the draw. Dublin probably deserved to win the game on the night so we were delighted to get a replay.
“Coming up for the second game we knew they would give us a serious battle,” he added. “What we did to them 12 months ago (Kilkenny dished out a 2-21 to 0-9 dismantling of the Dubs in Portlaoise) probably drove them on a bit more and they came back stronger from it.
“I felt things were more intense in the second game,” he said. “The match was very intense and physical, exactly what you’d expect in the championship.
“The wind was a factor last week as it made it a game of two halves - Dublin probably played the better hurling in the second half, but we were delighted to get out with a draw.
“Fair play to them they drove on in the replay,” the James Stephens man added. “It would have been easy for them to come down and say they had missed the boat but right from the off they drove at us. It wasn’t our day, but we’ll be back.”
It wasn’t that Kilkenny were over-run on the scoreboard. Although they trailed by four at half-time there was no need to panic.
“The one thing Brian (Cody) always says is that the half-time scoreline doesn’t matter,” said Larkin. “The only time it’s important is when the final whistle goes. The four point gap wasn’t mentioned in the dressing-room. We just wanted to get back out and work as hard as we could and take the scores when they came our way.”
Kilkenny’s top scorer on the night with 11 points (nine frees, 0-2 65s), Larkin brought Kilkenny back to within a point of Dublin with less than 20 minutes to play.
At that stage the game was delicately poised, but Peter Sutcliffe’s 54th minute goal helped Dublin open a gap Kilkenny couldn’t bridge.
“As the cliché goes, goals win games,” he said. “We were lucky enough to get one last week, it was their turn this time. However, they pushed on after the goal, tacking on a point after that which put them five points ahead.
“If we weren’t going to get a goal it would have been tough to get five points back again - we scraped back the four points after the break and put in a huge amount of work to do that, but it was Dublin’s day.
“They’ll move on to the Leinster final,” he added. “We’ll have to move on as well to be ready for Saturday’s match with Tipp.”
Tipperary and Kilkenny - the two counties everyone thought would be there on September 8. After next weekend, one will be gone.
“That’s the challenge now for us and Tipp,” he said. “Whoever loses next weekend will be gone out of the championship after the first week of July. If you asked all the experts their opinion at the start of the year they wouldn’t have had that, but that’s what ahead of us.
“We’ll drive it on now, he finished. “We’ll have to get some training sessions in during the week and get our heads ready.”