AFTER A white-hot battle, the coolness of the tunnel outside the Nowlan Park dressing-rooms was the perfect place for Brian Cody to talk about a tough game.
“That was some performance, but it had to be,” he said. “If we didn’t play to a very, very high standard we would have gone out of the championship. That was the reality for us, so to say the lads were focused would have been an understatement - they came out of Portlaoise having been comprehensively beaten by Dublin. A performance like that wouldn’t have been good enough to beat Tipp. It was a serious ask of the players, but they stood up and were counted. It was a terrific game, a terrific challenge.”
The challenge had been laid at the feet of the players - they had to want to beat Tipp.
“The players have to take things over themselves,” he said. “We have experienced players there but we have hugely ambitious young lads there too. Serious questions were being asked of our panel, and I felt the lads answered them well. We are aware that we’re out on Saturday night against Waterford who, to me, are a top team. The battle goes on.”
Typical of any team chasing a title, Kilkenny have taken the view that the biggest test is the next one.
“Saturday night will be the biggest test of our team,” the manager said. “We’ve played four games now - we’ve played four games before and become All-Ireland champions. We’re light years away from that at the moment, but we gave a good performance against Tipp.”
Part of that win was earned by Paul Murphy and Henry Shefflin, players who Cody himself believed had no hope of playing just a week ago.
“That was a fact,” he said. “Paul Murphy was barely able to jog before the Dublin replay, while Henry hadn’t an ounce of hurling done. Paul Murphy arrived into training on Monday night and said ‘I feel much better’. He showed he was much better, then went off and played like that.
“Henry came in for training and just insisted on getting into a hurling match,” he added. “He played serious hurling.”
If it hadn’t been a knockout match, Shefflin could have seen more action.
“I might have started him,” said Cody mischievously. “Will he start the next day? He has to fight for his place that fellow! We have to assess injuries before Waterford - T.J. (Reid) went off as his hamstring wasn’t right, so who knows. We have other lads nursing knocks.”
A little further down the corridor, Tipp were caring for wounds of a different kind.
“We’re devastated, but that’s championship hurling,” said Tipp boss Eamon O’Shea. “You don’t get a second chance. I felt we had chances but we didn’t put them away - the team that does goes on.”