KILKENNY manager Adrian Ronan didn’t look for a way out after his side bowed out of this year’s All-Ireland minor hurling championship.
“We were beaten fairly and squarely – no excuses,” he said. “Listening to people talking after the game they seem to think the turning point might have been a free where we went for a goal.
“We shouldn’t have gone for the goal – I’m not going to blame anybody, but that free was supposed to go over the bar,” he added. “We would have brought the game back to two points (0-10 to 0-8), but when Waterford got their next point it was 0-11 to 0-7.
“They began to pull away then, but we had rattled them during the build-up to that free,” he added. “On the day we just have to accept that we were second best and that Waterford were the better side.”
Despite the result, Ronan preferred to look at the positives for his young side. Shell-shocked after that loss, he reckoned they could bounce back next year - but some hard work lies ahead.
“We’re a young team,” he said. “There are 18 lads in that side who are hurting very badly, but hopefully that 18 will learn an awful lot from that defeat.
“Eighteen of that panel will have the chance to be in the minor squad again next year, including eight of the starting team but that doesn’t mean anything,” said the manager. “They had the privilege and honour of wearing the county jersey, but there’ll be competition for places.
Part of group
“I know the Kilkenny Co Board had Development Squads in at the game. Lads will have watched that match and will be thinking they can be a part of that group next year. I don’t know who’ll be over the side - that’s a Co Board decision - but some serious work will have to be done.”
Kilkenny had started quietly, but seemed to find their rhythm when they close to within a point of the winners midway through the opening half. However, the Cats just couldn’t get their noses in front.
“We drove almost as many wides as them by half-time, but theirs seemed to come from more scoreable chances,” he said. “There was a serious wind there, but we didn’t take advantage of it in the second half.
“You can come up with all the excuses you want, analyse the game in any number of ways, but we were just second best on the night and I, as trainer, and we, the selectors, will have to take the blame for that.
“As I said to the lads when we signed up for this when you win games the team wins them - when you lose it’s the trainer and management team who lose them. That’s something I’ve had to learn and I am learning,” he said. “I learned a lot from that defeat, and know there’s a lot of work to be done if we want to have more success with this team.
“I know there will be people out there who would have picked different teams, but we got the job,” he said. “We did it to the best of our ability. It wasn’t good enough in this case, but we may not be gone away - we might be telling a different story next year.”
The question had to be asked - was Ronan interested in staying on?
“I was offered the job for two years, but the Co Board might have a rethink on that,” he said. “That’s part and parcel of the job. I really enjoyed my year over the team, and want to thank all the people who were involved and worked with me. The support I got was incredible and I’d like to acknowledge the support I got from my three selectors (Br Damien Brennan, Niall Lacey and Barry Power). I had Sean Kelly and Derek Dooley and others working in the background.
“The support we got from the Co Board, and the way that these young lads are looked after is incredible,” Ronan continued. “From the gear they get to meals, it wasn’t from the want of co-operation and effort people put in for us that we didn’t win.”
Ronan also spoke of the future for Kilkenny hurling in general, commenting that a lot of work must be undertaken at all levels in the future.
“In this day and age I wonder is Kilkenny hurling going through a phase,” he said. “We have a great team at senior level, a super team, but there’s a lot of work to be done by all of us club coaches and at under-age level. The present generation of hurlers have been super for Kilkenny, but we need to knuckle down because there are other teams catching up.”
He agreed with the idea that Kilkenny came up with the blueprint. Other teams are copying it now and getting the success.
“That’s it – there’s a blueprint there and people are copying it,” he said. “That’s why Brian Cody and his selectors have the job to better that and come up with new plans. The fear of the Kilkenny jersey might not be there like it used to be because other teams are putting serious effort in.
“We’ll have to work hard as a county – this is for every coach who is involved with teams, as I am, at schools and under-age levels. It’s not straight-forward and simple; there’s a lot of work to be done and we can’t just sit still. If you sit still you’ll be caught. We have to move on again.”