Kilkenny were tested in terms of skill, mind and body during Sunday’s helter-skelter National Hurling League clash with Tipperary in Nowlan Park, and they will be all the better for the experience.
“A win like that is good for the confidence,” insisted Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody after the 44-score thriller. “It is good for the confidence of the new players to know they can survive at this level. They were tested every single way. They were tested massively.
“We fell behind. We came back into it. We fell behind again. We came back and then we were rocked again. That kept happening. The vital thing was that we kept responding.”
Mr Cody said there were lots of good and bad things about the match from a Kilkenny point of view. The score they ran up was excellent. The big score they conceded “you couldn’t be happy with”, he insisted.
“That is the way it is,” he smiled. “To come from 10 points down to win by six was decent, very, very decent. There is no doubt about that.
“The first thing you need in a tough situation like that is a genuineness to come back and the nerve to come back and all of those things. You need confidence in yourself to keep driving on. Then skill and everything else comes into play.
“To strive and absolutely say we are not going to lose the game is vital. Fellows have to stand up and stand up and stand up again when they suffer knocks. Our players kept doing that.
“A lot of aspects of the win were very encouraging, definitely. Obviously it was a very good game to win. Everyone is on level terms again and it is going to be a very, very interesting League.”
Both sides used five subs, the maximum allowed, during the all action, energy draining contest. Cody was delighted with the opportunity to give panellists game time.
“The panel is everything, as we have always been saying,” he continued. “You have to have options, and several options for places throughout the field. The strength of our panel was tested.”
The League will take a break this weekend, but the following Sunday, Galway will be visitors to Nowlan Park and then on Saturday, March 15 the Cats will play Dublin under lights in Parnell Park.
“With all counties level on points now the League is going to be hugely competitive, which is good for everyone, “ Mr Cody said.
And back to the topsy-turvey Tipp clash, his summary continued: “Hurling can be like that. I suppose the strong wind was a factor as well. It is hard to explain why matches can go like that.
“We were poor in the first half but we picked things up a fair bit in the second half. The response from our players was good all day.”
Kilkenny and Tipp produced another 10-goal thriller in the League final of 2003, which the Cats won, and in 2012 they conceded six goals against Dublin in Nowlan Park and still won that match.
Match star, Colin Fennelly, who scored 3-5 from play, said he was enjoying the challenge of playing at centre-forward. He was asked by management to try his hand at playing in the position, and it was so far, so good.
“I never got a score like that, even when playing in school,” he said of his fabulous take. “I just kept working hard; the openings kept coming and so too did the scores. The work-rate of the players all over the field was first class. No one wanted to lose. No one wanted to let the side down.”
The Ballyhale Shamrocks attacker said the No. 11 role involved a lot more responsibility and work, but he enjoyed the greater freedom playing further out the field from goal.
“It is early days in the season,” he smiled. “We will see how things progress. The selectors are trying different things, and having me playing at centre-forward is one of those things.”
Fennelly was surrounded by a posse of journalists before he even left the Kilkenny dressing-room. The reporters were trying to get as much material as possible, and the interview was dragging on. Colin was polite, and offered opinion on whatever he was asked.
Twice manager Brian Cody passed the scrum during the interview.
The boss finally ended it, with what must be the quote of the week: “Remember, its only a League game.”