No doubt about it, but the time between the All-Ireland semi-final and the final is a strange period.
With players gearing up for the big game every hint of team gossip, news or information is devoured as people immerse themselves in the build-up.
And if there’s a mention of an injury scare? Expect things to kick up several notches!
It makes for something of a goldfish-bowl existence, but Kieran Joyce has come to terms with the frenzy that surrounds Kilkenny on the eve of the All-Ireland hurling final.
“That’s the beauty of social media,” the three-time All-Ireland winner said. “If a player is seen with a bandage or cast it doesn’t take long before word is circulating around. That’s the environment we’re in now, but we’re well used to it.
Places Up For Grabs
“Everyone is looking forward to the game,” he added. “We’ve been here before; we know the process. There’s been a few niggles in training, with some lads picking up a few knocks as they’re trying to get back into contention but that means there are places up for grabs.
“Lads are bringing great form into training,” continued the Rower-Inistioge man. “They’re trying to maintain that for the final.”
That fight to make the team for Sunday’s All-Ireland final is nothing new as far as Joyce is concerned.
“That competition in the panel has always been there,” he said. “Brian (Cody) has brought in players who will constantly challenge, so make no bones about it - if you don’t play well, you won’t start.
“A couple of calls like that have been made down through the years,” he added.
“I know from my own experience that when I wasn’t playing up to scratch other players came into the side. If you play well and hold your position you know it’ll be hard for others to break back into the side.
“It’s up to each player to bring their ‘A’ game to training and to matches, to look after themselves as best they can and deliver that performance.”
Kilkenny were impressive in the way they earned their All-Ireland final berth, but Joyce admitted that patience helped them get to grips with the Waterford threat.
“It took us about 20 minutes to adapt to the semi-final,” he recalled. “Waterford brought a different game-plan, one that we wouldn’t really be used to, but over the last number of years the game of hurling has changed immensely so it depends on how quickly you adapt to things in the game.
“It took us a while to get used to Waterford’s style but, when we did, our big players stood up and got some great scores. Ger (Aylward) took off some great points in the second half while Richie (Hogan) and T.J. (Reid) imposed themselves on the game as they always do.
“As for the backs it was up to us to steady the ship as best we could and to try and give good ball to the forwards.”
The All-Ireland final will see Kilkenny lock horns with Galway for the second time this season, and while the sides have met already Joyce believes the Tribesmen have shown more depth to their game.
“They have serious character,” he said of Sunday’s opposition. “They didn’t wane after Seamie Callanan threatened to shoot the lights out with his 3-9.
“Every time Tipp went a few points ahead Galway battled back with scores of their own. They remained cool under pressure, while the work-rate and intensity they brought to the game was phenomenal.
“They are a physical team too,” Joyce added (something he knows all about after his crunching clash with Johnny Glynn in the Leinster final). “They imposed themselves on the game against Tipp and we’ll expect that in the final. It’ll come down to that war on the pitch, whoever gets the ball and does the best with it.”
Another facet of Galway’s game is the mental strength of their defence. They might have been expected to wilt after Callanan bagged his 3-9, but Joyce was impressed with the way they shut the rest of the Tipp attack down.
“They held their positions and didn’t adapt too much to Tipp’s game,” he said, reviewing the result.
“Ok, Seamie scored what he did, but Galway kept guys like Bubbles (John O’Dwyer) to a point or two, which is tough at times given his accuracy.
“They imposed their game against Tipp and that’s what every side tries to do - both Galway and ourselves will try and do the same for the final.
“We know what’s ahead of us,” he added. “It’ll be a ferocious battle, but it’ll make for a great game to watch.”
So if it’s anything like when the sides met in the 2012 decider (and its replay), then this promises to be a cracker.
“That’s it,” he finished with a smile. “And hopefully we’ll have the same result in the end.”