HE MAY have 11 tough, demanding, high pressure and successful inter-county seasons behind him already, but Jackie Tyrrell can’t wait for the 2012 campaign to begin, writes John Knox.
Already six All-Ireland and three National League titles richer, the James Stephens man’s appetite for the game is far from satisfied and he readily admitted he missed the game during the winter breaker.
“Yea,” he admitted when it was suggested that he looked like a guy who was rarin’ to go again when we spoke at the Glanbia press conference to announce their continued sponsorship of Kilkenny teams.
“To be honest I missed it, the players, the craic, the training during the break. You live in each others pocket for so long you are family.
“Last year we were going together for nearly nine months. To go from that intense environment, finishing in an All-Ireland final, to absolutely nothing is a real change.
Mad to get back
“While you are delighted for the break and so on, from about November on I was mad to get back into it. I am delighted January is gone and we are coming into the League. I am looking forward it.”
The GAA have planned a glamorous opening to the Allianz League, with an All-Ireland final repeat between champions, Kilkenny and Tipperary on the bill for Nowlan Park on Sunday.
In the All-Ireland final in September, Tyrrell turned in the proverbial blinder as the Cats took back McCarthy from Tipp, but that, he was quick to point out, was history now.
“That was a good day for Kilkenny,” smiled the Glanbia sales representative. “It took a real team effort to win.
“Still, it is great to start the League with an All-Ireland final repeat. It is a wonderful advertisement for the game of hurling. It doesn’t get much better in terms of an attraction.
“Last year it was the same. Tipp were the All-Ireland champions when we met them at the start of the League. We were mad to get at them. I am sure they will be mad to get at us this time.
“It all adds up to something really exciting. The rivalry appears to be getting bigger and better. The last few All-Irelands have been great, for the promotion of the game, the fans and the players too. I am sure this League game will be the same.”
The 6’ 2” giant defender loves the involvement and preparations, and he said he immersed himself so much in the game that he never felt pressure. He just didn’t have time to think about it.
He loves it all
“It is great to be involved, and if the mental preparation and focus is right, you are cool because you are totally clued in to one thing….the game,” was the way he explained it. “You don’t see anything, think about anything else. When the game comes you don’t notice things going on around you. Before you know it, it is half-time, or the end of the match.
“You don’t have time to look around. The games fly. The only things you thing about are surviving and keeping an eye on you man
“I love it all. It is my life now. It almost takes you over and consumes you. It is not just training three times a week and then leave it at that. You have the rest element, the diet, the gym side of things to look after also.
“You live and breath it 24/7, constantly thinking about the next training session and how you can prepare as best as possible for it.”
Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody has drilled in into the players that they are privileged and honoured to play for the county. He gets the players to buy into that thinking. Tyrrell is a devoted follower.
“Why wouldn’t you love it,” Tyrrell shot back when one suggested his face was aglow with excitement merely talking about the upcoming season.
Fans here don’t talk about winning Leinster crowns or things like that; they want national titles, one suggested to him. Does that place an added burden on the players?
“That is the way Kilkenny people are,” he smiled. “That comes from our tradition. That can be a good thing. It helps keep us on our toes. They let us know the standards they expect. As far as I am concerned it is great.”
The Cats opened the season by winning the Walsh Cup, led by new captain and Tyrrell’s club colleague, Eoin Larkin.
Larkin a great captain
“Eoin can be a great captain,” Tyrrell insisted. “It is a great honour for the person, the club, your family to be a county captain. Eoin is very aware of that. We have picked up the Walsh Cup already. Hopefully we can add to that during the year.”
The new season brought a whole new challenge for everyone involved in the Kilkenny squad.
“We start the season with a clean sheet of paper,” was the way Tyrrell put it. “All the places on the team are up for grabs. It doesn’t matter how many All-Irelands you have or haven’t.
“Whoever trains and plays the best will make the team. That is the way Brian (Cody) has set up things. We all know where we stand and the situation we are in. It is all about working to get your name on that team sheet every day.”