They may have come up short on the field in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, but the Kilkenny minor hurlers left nothing in the tank.
“Once you perform you do yourself proud,” was the summary from disappointed Kilkenny manager, Pat Hoban, who said the players could not have given any more for the cause
“But semi-finals are all about winning. What you want is so close, yet it can be so far away. For us today it was far away. That is sport. You have to accept the good with the bad.
“I was delighted the way the team performed. The players showed a great attitude from start to finish. They were still there chasing the game, chasing score right to the final whistle.
“I have been saying all along that the attitude within the squad was super. The players proved that again. We won’t go home with our heads hanging. These players did the county, their clubs and families proud.”
The Mullinavat clubman said he thought the team played some good hurling. They attacked strongly and forced Waterford to commit fouls, especially during the firest half, which Alan Murphy punished.
“We just didn’t get luck in our efforts to score a goal,” he added. “We needed a goal. It just wouldn’t come. We created two, three or maybe four chances but we couldn’t get the final touch. Waterford got two chances and they took them. That was the difference.”
He felt the concession of two goals in the first half hurt. Still, Kilkenny kept the scoreboard ticking over.
“Actually I thought the goals were keeping Waterford in the game,” he suggested. “We had six scores on the scoreboard at one stage and they had three (0-6 to 2-1) and still we we were behind. That sort of thing can happen, but the main thing is not to panic.
“Our players never did.All the time they stuck with the game plan, kept playing good attacking hurling. When were two points down at half-time we weren’t unduly worried.”
The Cats battled hard in the second half and the game was open to the end.
“We took control from a possession point of view when we had the extra man,” Mr Hoban continued. “We had a chance from a free to get within a point of Waterford. It didn’t happen for us, which was unfortunate.
“A few of our decisions when on the ball at that time probably weren’t the best, but that is life. These are young players learning the game. Seniors makes mistakes in similar positions.
“The players have to be positive about the whole championship experience. They won a Leinster championship. They qualified for an All-Ireland semi-final and were within a puck of the ball of making the final. It has been a tough year on some of them. Some lost an All-Ireland colleges final, and semi-finals too.”
Even through the pain of defeat he saw it all as “a big learning experience” for the players.
“They came to Croke Park twice and performed well twice,” he reminded. “That’s not bad. There are a lot of very young players there. We had a16-year-old on the field; six 17-year-olds on the field. You would like to think they will learn from this season and drive on.”
Seven of the starting team will be under-age next year. That doesn’t guarantee anything, the manager, said, but it could be a help.
Injuries did hurt, he felt - Paddy Deegan was injured; Stephen Farrell was injured; Robbie Fitzpatrick was injured; James Tyrrell was injured; Gary Kelly was injured.
“I am not offering excuses, but things like that weaken your options,” said. “Thanks guys and well done. That is my message to the players. They took representing Kilkenny very seriously and they did the county proud.”
Waterford manager Sean Power said Galwayor Limerick will provide some test in the All-Ireland final.
“We will celebrate this victory, and next week we will turn out attention to the final. That was a good fighting display. This win means a lot to Waterford.
“Goals got us through a couple of games this season, and they did here too. We conceded a lot of scores from frees, so we will have to have a look at that aspect of our play.”