THE DRAMA and demands that surround a team and County Board as they prepare for an All-Ireland final are many, but for chairman Paul Kinsella there’s no other place he’d rather be.
“Pressure?” he said. “It’s only high pressure when you lose!”
Kinsella reflected on a golden era for Kilkenny hurling, praising the players and management for the hard work that has paid off with another final appearance.
“To think that we are in a seventh All-Ireland final in a row is unbelievable,” he said. “Nobody, not even the most optimistic of Kilkenny supporters, could have anticipated a run as successful as this.
“The great mystery is how the same players keep up their hunger for training and will to win, year after year,” he added. “They never seem to get tired of it, giving the same high standard on and off the field.”
The chairman agreed that success breeds success. It filters down, but he was quick to pay credit to the clubs and underage coaches for sowing those seeds.
“There is a tremendous amount of work being done in clubs, while primary schools have been particularly good to Kilkenny,” he said. “They control what happens up to 13 years of age before the Bord na nOg take over.
“There is also an excellent system in place in the secondary schools,” he added. “You only have to look at the competitions every year; Kilkenny schools always seem to be involved in the title shake-up year after year. There is an immense amount of work being done.
“It’s probably unique to Kilkenny, at least in the schools situation, to have so many people prepared to give their time so freely,” he continued. “There’s one word I use regularly when I’m outside Kilkenny and that is ‘recognition’. None of the people involved in the coaching end of it, be it clubs or schools, want anything out of it but they do like their work to be recognised. Hopefully at our end we do give that recognition to the people who do that work.”
With so many hurlers now also teachers, children are getting the chance to pick up a love of sport from an early age – but the ties are deeper than that, the chairman reckoned.
“The one thing you’ll find is that it runs in families - the same names keep cropping up,” he said. “The kids get a love for Gaelic games through their parents and they take over when they get older. You’ll find that in every club across the county; now people see the benefits of it. It’s great to have children involved in sport, regardless of whichever sport it is.”
And sport is clearly a huge favourite in Kilkenny.
“Outsiders always say to me that when you drive through Kilkenny, county or city, it’s very noticeable that hurleys are carried as an accessory, be it boys or girls,” Mr Kinsella said. “You won’t find that it very many other places.”
It’s not just hurling that has benefitted, he added.
“I’m just as quick to remind them that we’re just as good at camogie. When you’ve both sides of the house on fire you have a great chance!”
Naturally, he is looking forward to Sunday’s final.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Galway are a very good hurling team. For years they have been able to put out 15 very strong hurlers - their skill level would be on a par with anything ourselves, Tipp or Cork would have.
“It should be a very good final,” he added. “I’d like to think we’ll be able to step up our performance considerably from the Leinster final. I have no doubt but we will. Who’ll win? I think we’ll win because we’re a better-balanced team.”