SOME people might argue that the National Hurling League doesn’t mean as much to players as a championship medal does, but try saying that to Richie Power.
“You start every year wanting to win everything and we’re no different,” the Carrickshock man said as Kilkenny continued the defence of their league title. “We don’t want to give up any crown without a fight. The League is there to be won - that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Power was able to reflect on a performance which saw Kilkenny win their third game on the trot and book a place in the semi-finals against Galway. A plan had been laid out in January, and the Cats are still on course.
“At the start of the year this is what we aimed for,” he said. “We put ourselves under pressure with the first two results so we’re probably not hurling to where we were last year. We’ve a lot to work on, which is a good thing for this time of year.”
Having lost their opening two games Kilkenny were candidates for relegation, not silverware. To stand a chance of retaining the title they needed to turn their form around.
“That was a challenge we relished,” said Power. “We’re league champions and we want to hold on to that crown. You don’t want to give it up without a fight.
“Losing the first two games we put ourselves under pressure,” he said. “We knew that but we regrouped and pushed on to get the three results. They might not have been great performances, but we got them. We’re where we want to be.”
Power was introduced to the fray midway through the first half on Sunday. Like many of his colleagues this season he has alternated between starting team and subs bench, but saw the positives for the group rather than an individual perspective.
“It’s great for the team (to have so many players to choose from),” he said. “You push to be there every day - you want to start every game, but there are 30/34 players involved in this panel where everyone is as strong as each other. You could pick any 15 any day to go out and do a job and they’d do the same hard work.
“It’s great to have competition for places there,” he added. “We have lads coming back from injury and more to come back, so it augurs well for the coming weeks.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Power was one of the one challengers coming into the set-up. Now an established part of the plan, he appreciates the effort the younger players are making.
“When we came in a few years ago our dream was to win All-Irelands and to be part of the team with guys like Henry Shefflin,” he said. “We see the young lads coming through now putting pressure on us and that’s great.
“It’s what you need, because if you get complacent you lose your edge - the killer instinct,” he said. “With the competition that’s coming through I can’t see that happening any time soon.”
There was another onfield competition on Sunday, this time of the penalty variety. Power took the second, scoring a point - but hadn’t he an option to take the first one too?
“I don’t know about an option - Richie (Hogan) stood over it so I let him at it!” he smiled. “I can slag him over it now - at least I got a score from mine!”
Joking aside Power admitted the Cats were buoyed by the win, which sets up a semi-final against Galway.
“That will be another tough game to look forward to,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the result and make the League final.”