Time heals wounds of 2013 - now Tyrrell targets more success

Eyes forward... Last years championship brought heartbreak for Kilkenny, but Jackie Tyrrell is hoping the pain of 2013 can spur the Cats on to greater things in 2014. Photo: John McIlwaine
Walking into the meeting-room in the heart of Nowlan Park, Aras O Cearbhaill, is like delving into the history book of Kilkenny hurling.

Walking into the meeting-room in the heart of Nowlan Park, Aras O Cearbhaill, is like delving into the history book of Kilkenny hurling.

On one wall, the one overlooking the pitch, is a cluster of framed photographs paying tribute to the last decade - Kilkenny’s golden era of hurling.

There, in the top right corner, is a snapshot of a young Jackie Tyrrell proudly lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup.

It seems like the James Stephens man has been part of the set-up forever, but it’s only when you look at the caption - Jackie Tyrrell, Kilkenny captain 2006 - that you realise how fast time has flown.

“It feels like a long time ago,” he smiled, looking over his shoulder at the picture. “I look a lot younger there than I do now!”

The ensuing years have been good to Tyrrell, who has harvested five more All-Irelands inbetween. In that time he has gone from being a promising member of the panel to a mainstay of the side.

“It’s a lot different,” he said. “To be honest, I’m a lot more comfortable in myself now - I would have been 24 when that picture was taken. I’ve come into myself a lot more since then - that’s come with experience and maturity - but that was a very enjoyable time.”

It’s incredible to think that seven full seasons have elapsed since that photo.

“The time has gone just like that,” said Tyrrell, clicking his fingers. “It’s hard to believe it’s eight years ago, but they’ve rolled into one another. You’re busy playing with the club, next thing you’re getting ready for another campaign with the county.

“The years do fly by, but I remember being told that by the older players when I started hurling with Kilkenny,” he said. “You’d always think ‘yeah right’ but they go so quickly. I’m 32 this year but I’m still loving it all, trying to squeeze every last bit out of it.

“Having a championship like we did last year made me stand back and think how lucky I am to be really part of it all,” he added. “It makes you want to drive on and try to get back to where we were. However, there’s a lot of hard work to do first, starting with the league campaign.”

Kilkenny weren’t helped by the injury blitz they suffered last year, one of the worst to hit the county in a decade.

“I’d always say that we’ve had injuries over the years; maybe the success covered that up,” he said. “The injuries we had last year were well documented, but it’s all about the squad. You have to have 20 guys for the day and another 10, 12 there pushing them on in training. We’ve had that over the years and that’s what we’re trying to do again, form a competitive squad where we’re all pushing each other.”

That competition will be all the more intense given boss Brian Cody’s belief that Kilkenny are only ranked fifth for this year’s All-Ireland. Such an admission might surprise some people, but not Tyrrell.


“Sport is ruthless,” he said. “It can be a cut-throat environment where you’re only as good as your last game. We weren’t good enough to make the All-Ireland semi-finals last year - that’s why we aren’t in the top four.”

Kilkenny’s championship was akin to a rollercoaster, from the atmosphere at that game against Tipp to extra-time thriller against Waterford. The team were carried on a wave of emotion, but it came to a juddering halt when they were beaten by Cork. For the players, it was hard to take.

“It was a case of what do we do now because we were so used to being in semi-finals and finals (defeat to Cork ended a 16-year run of reaching successive semi-finals),” he said. “There was a lot of soul-searching after that loss, especially over the Winter.

“We got a chance to unwind and to think things through after that defeat,” he added.

“We were able to get away from the spotlight but behind it all you still have to watch an All-Ireland semi-final and a final, as well as the replay this year. In the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘could we have been there?

“You’re always tormenting yourself watching those games,” he admitted. “You’d always be thinking ‘what would we have done there’ or ‘would we have done that differently’ but really all you’re doing is beating yourself up because you’re not in the game because you didn’t deserve to be - you’ve just got to face that fact.

“The only thing is that, with the club scene to follow, the new championship isn’t long in coming around,” he added. “In November you start plotting and planning, getting ready again.”

Tyrrell got back in the groove a little earlier than usual this year, playing in the Walsh Cup. It was something he relished.

“It was good to pull on a Kilkenny jersey,” he said. “Any time you do is a great thing. Playing games is all lads want; training is great, but it’s a great feeling to be back with the county, greater still to be playing in the games.

Croke Park

“Getting to play the final in Croke Park was nice as we hadn’t been there since the 2012 All-Ireland final.”

A whole year out of Croker - not the norm for Kilkenny.

“It was strange,” he said. “Going up to the Walsh Cup final I was very aware we were playing there for the first time since that 2012 replay. You get a nice buzz going in there - you can’t beat going to Croke Park and playing games.”

The Cats picked up their first piece of silverware that night against the Dubs. It was a good time for the panel, and their new mentors James McGarry and Derek Lyng.

“Like any set-up, when you’ve someone new there’s a freshness there,” said Tyrrell. “It’s the same with the new guys in the panel, which brought a new look to things.

“The players have huge respect for Derek and James,” he said. “They know what it takes to win and have given everything for the Kilkenny cause over the years. It brings a great freshness and makes things exciting.

“The lads are very current,” he continued. “Derek has been playing with his club (Emeralds) while James has been involved with Ballyhale Shamrocks. They’ve definitely got their fingers on the pulse. They’re young guys who know what it takes to get to the top, but we’ll need every bit of guidance to get us there.”

Young men in ne management roles - is Tyrrell tempted to give it a go?

“Not yet,” he smiled. “I’ll sit tight at what I’m doing!”