Brian Cody has been preaching it for years. He is absolutely right. It is all about current form; how everyone is performing at the moment.
What a player did in the last match, all last season or in the toughest times anywhere in the past, counts for little. Today’s form will win today’s match, today’s contest.
The James Stephens man and fellow selectors, Michael Dempsey (St Joseph’s), Derek Lyng (Emeralds) and James McGarry (Bennettsbridge) have assembled the squad for the opening joust in the Leinster senior hurling championship, which will be staged at Nowlan Park on Saturday week.
The opposition will be provided by Offaly, one time giants of the game, but currently struggling somewhat to regain the high ground they once strode with absolute defiance. During the best of times, Offaly never felt a result was beyond them, against anyone.
There was a toughness of spirit and mind, and a neatness of style that made them difficult to handle. Kilkenny, no more or less than any other county, had their problems coping and living with the midlanders, who made the best of a small pool of players to become giants in the game.
Their current manager, Brian Whelahan, was part of that glory generation. He was reared - or his career flourished - during some of the best of times for Offaly from about 1980, when they won the Leinster championship, until they won their last All-Ireland senior hurling final in 1998.
Right now Offaly are experiencing difficult times. While Kilkenny roared to victory in Division IA of the National League, which finished with a tremendous final against Tipperary that went to extra time, Offaly struggled in the lower reached and ended up in a relegatin 1B/promotion 2A play-off against Kerry.
Current form suggests only one outcome in the June 7 clash, but with Offaly you can never be careful enough.
Kilkenny came through the National League well, and not merely because they won it. They used the matches really well, giving 39 players in all game time.
The 40th player, Michael Rice, who had been dogged by muscle injuries for ages, made his return in the recent challenge against Clare.
A fine squad has been assembled. Now it is about the fine tuning and seeing if Kilkenny are good enough or not to live with the best the championship will throw up.
The county was in a somewhat similar situation this time last year. The Cats won the League. They went to Tullamore to face Offaly in the championship.
On a day when the temperatures soared, gutsy Offaly won the headlines but lost the match as they caused the visitors all sorts of problems. The championship never really bubbled for Kilkenny after that.
Henry Shefflin was absent with a stress fracture of the foot that day. He will be sidelined for the same reason on Saturday week, and he will be joined by Richie Power (hamstring). Losing players of their stature, leaders, scorers, guys who can make things happen when the pressure is greatest, is not easy.
Almost as much as losses hurt one team, they can lift the opposition, who see their prospects improving.
Below we outline some facts and figures from the League. T.J. Reid, as if we need telling, is vital to the Kilkenny cause. He just can’t stop scoring! So too is Richie Hogan, who lashed over 0-6 in the League final.
Walter Walsh figured among the high scorers, but his form has dipped of late. He didn’t start the League final, but he came on as a sub. He started against Clare, but made no impression.
Oh for the form Walsh was in earlier in the League when he galloped up the wings in Nowlan Park and in Wexford Park before blasting over points. He was on fire as Kilkenny ran up a massive 21 goals and 153 points (11-140 conceded).
For the Tullogher man, and the rest, these two weeks are about finding form, their best form!
Cody and his selectors will remember the League and what happened in it, but it will be the goings on in Nowlan Park that will decide the starting XV for Saturday week.
Kilkenny’s Top 6 scorers
T.J. Reid...............6-30 (48)
Henry Shefflin....1-28 (31)
Colin Fennelly....4-14 (26)
Walter Walsh.....1-17 (20)
Richie Hogan......1-15 (18)
Mark Kelly .........4-4 (16)
ALLIANZ HL RESULTS/FIXTURES
Round 1 - Tipperary 2-13, Waterford 0-16; Clare 1-16, Kilkenny 0-18; Galway 0-28, Dublin 1-12.
Round 2 - Kilkenny 5-20, Tipperary 5-14; Dublin 2-17, Clare 0-17; Waterford 0-22, Galway 1-13.
Round 3 - Kilkenny 2-16, Galway 1-16; Clare 4-15, Tipperary 0-20; Waterford 1-13, Dublin 1-10.
Round 4 - Dublin 1-22, Kilkenny 3-13; Clare 5-18, Waterford 0-20; Galway 3-16, Tipperary 1-19.
Round 5 - Tipperary 1-19, Dublin 0-19; Kilkenny 4-22, Waterford 0-14; Clare 0-18, Galway 1-15.
Relegation play-off - Dublin 4-13, Waterford 1-17.
Quarter-finals - Clare 2-23, Laois 2-19; Galway 1-20, Limerick 1-12; Tipperary 3-25, Cork 4-19;
Kilkenny 4-23 Wexford 2-16.
Semi-finals - Kilkenny 1-16, Galway 0-15; Tipperary 2-24, Clare 2-17.
NHL final - Kilkenny 2-25, Tipperary 1-27 (after extra-time).
Round 1 - Cork 0-17, Limerick 0-17; Laois 1-19, Offaly 2-14; Wexford 0-15. Antrim 1-11.
Round 2 - Cork 0-14, Laois 0-7; Wexford 2-19, Offaly 2-13; Limerick 3-26, Antrim 0-12.
Round 3 - Limerick 1-14, Wexford 2-8; Laois 2-21, Antrim 1-21; Cork 1-24, Offaly 1-18.
Round 4 - Offaly 2-15, Limerick 2-15; Cork 0-18, Antrim 1-12; Wexford 2-21, Laois 1-18.
Round 5 - Cork 2-24, Wexford 1-20; Limerick 1-17, Laois 1-13; Offaly 5-27, Antrim 4-9.
Relegation play-off - Antrim 1-18, Offaly 1-14
Relegation 1B/ Promotion 2A play-off - Offaly 3-19, Kerry 0-14.