Settled team - maybe not?

T.J. Reid (Kilkenny) clebrates scoring his second goal against Tipperary during the Division 1 League Final in Semple Stadium.  (Photo: Eoin Hennessy)
Kilkenny could go through the hurling championship without a settled team, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has suggested.

Kilkenny could go through the hurling championship without a settled team, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has suggested.

The Cats used the National League to build a new panel and nearly 40 players were given game time when a different team was fielded in every game.

Could that situation continue, we asked the Kilkenny boss in the aftermath of Sunday’s epic League final win over Tipperary when the fielded team showed a number of changes from the one that performed well in the semi-final.

“Who knows? Who knows,” Mr Cody replied. “There is competition for places. There is no point in having competition for places and playing the same 15 players all the time.

“Whoever earns a place will play is our opinion. The team is not settled. The players know that. We know that. I am not concerned about having settled personnel on the team at all.

“I am concerned that we have 26 for every match day and we are capable of pulling 20, 21 players or whatever is needed out of that panel. That is the minimum required for where we want to go.”

Mr Cody and fellow selectors, Michael Dempsey, Derek Lyng and James McGarry did well with the teams they picked for every match. The panel progressed nicely, and new players are battling for places.

“We are delighted to win the League, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the strength of the team for the championship,” the James Stephens clubman continued.

However, he felt Kilkenny were in a better place this time compared to when they won the League 12 months ago. He was looking forward to the Leinster championship, and the opening game against Offaly in Nowlan Park on June 7.

“We are in a better place,” he said of the then and now situation. “We won the League last year, but we didn’t perform in matches after that. We are happy where we are now, but we have to go to several different places to be ready for the championship. There are calls to be made everywhere.”

He was happy that the panel was well tested during the League campaign and his verdict was that “it is strong”.

“We have good confidence in it,” he assured. “The championships comes up now, and that is a different level again. We will simply have to look at our preparations for that.”

The players return to their clubs now, and full rounds of the senior, intermediate and junior leagues will be played over the next two weekends.

After that it will be back to county squad training for the Offaly match. The full month of June will be free of major club matches as Kilkenny focus on the championship.

“No matter how well things go, you could run into an injury situation which would change things,” Mr Cody reminded. “You would want to be very lucky to be always picking from a full panel.

“We want to have cover for every position. We tried an awful lot of players and permutations, and we have a strong panel. Players got the opportunity to challenge to get on the team, and a lot of them grabbed it.”