Rivalry is still healthy, says J.J.

Forget about playing the old enemy for 90 minutes - the toughest job J.J. Delaney had on Sunday was getting back into the dressing-room!

Forget about playing the old enemy for 90 minutes - the toughest job J.J. Delaney had on Sunday was getting back into the dressing-room!

“You’d be more tired after the match,” he smiled, as he worked his way through an almost endless queue of autograph hunters and photo requests following Kilkenny’s epic league final win.

The Fenians (Johnstown) man was delighted to add another League medal to his collection, but felt he’d like another look at the game.

“To be honest, the whole game is a bit of a blur - I’d like to see it all back again.

“Everything happened so quickly it was as if the whole afternoon was end to end - every time the ball went down the field there seemed to be a score.

“It mightn’t be a great game for a back to watch again,” he added with a smile, “but it was an entertaining one.

“It was always going to be that way when it’s Kilkenny and Tipperary. The two of us went at each other and that was it. It’s a great advertisement for the game - it’s going to whet the appetite for the championship.”

Delaney was a picture of concentration throughout the afternoon, often playing in the eye Tipp’s attacking storm. It was a day when you had to be mentally tuned in, as any slip could have been costly.

“You’re hoping that you don’t make a mistake, give them a free or do something stupid that will cost your team,” he said. “It was that kind of game where it was always going to come down to something small, but luckily enough we got over the line.”

Intensity

Kilkenny and Tipp have enjoyed many battles over the years, but Sunday’s game kicked up that intensity.

“It never seems to fail,” he said. “Every game between the two counties seems to top the last one.

“It’s great; it’s a healthy rivalry that has gone on down through the years - there’s just something about Kilkenny and Tipperary. You’d even see it in the crowd. Our supporters were roaring then, at one stage, Tipp got two points up and you could hear the ‘Tipp, Tipp, Tipp’ chants.

“As a player you hear all that and you pick up on that energy,” he added. “You can’t but feel it - that’s the reason you go back training in December and January, you want to get back out and play in games with that sort of atmosphere.

“To do that and come out on top makes it all the more sweeter.”

The Cats made a great start to the fray, and although they trailed at half-time there weren’t too many harsh words said at the interval.

“We didn’t do too badly in the first half,” reckoned Delaney. “We were on top for the first 10 or 15 minutes but Tipp came back into the game.

“The penalty before half-time really brought us back into it, leaving two points in it,” he added. “We knew that the game was going to go down to the wire, which it did.

“There was no let-up going into extra-time,” he continued. “You have to keep your mind switched on, but at that stage it’s down to hunger - if you let your man get the ball he’s going to score, so you can’t afford to let your team down. That’s what it’s all about - to do the best for your side.”

Given the length of the game it was a little tough to reflect on some of the early talking points!

“Yeah - it’s like as if the first half was played yesterday,” he smiled. “Still, it was great. I don’t think anyone could say that the fans didn’t get value from this game with the bonus of extra-time. It was a great build-up for the championship.”

Clare might be champions, but neither Kilkenny nor Tipp will be too far behind.

“You’d hope not,” he said. “Each game is individual, but we’ve Offaly in a few weeks time and we’re not looking past that. You can’t afford to - last year they rattled in three or four goals before we knew it.

“With a small bit of composure they could have gotten over the line,” he finished. “We’re focused on that game and nothing further.”