THE Leinster minor hurling silverware may be safely back in Kilkenny, but Cats boss Pat Hoban knows there are greater challenges ahead.
“It’s a great opportunity for these lads,” he said. “They’ve won a medal and a cup, which is a great honour, but we’re striving to go further.”
Hoban was full of praise for his young charges after their 1-18 to 0-8 demolition of Laois on Sunday, lauding them for their hard work and effort.
“The lads were well prepared for the game,” he said. “They seemed up for the game and brought that on to the field.”
And it got even better when Michael Kenny cracked home an early goal to give them a dream start.
“We were trying not to concede goals while also putting Laois under pressure early on,” said Hoban. “The goal gave us a cushion from the start but the reason we kept it was down to our backs, who pressed from the off.”
Even after playing Laois already, the Kilkenny manager saw more in the O’Moore men in their semi-final win over Wexford.
“We beat Laois in the opening round of the championship (the Cats won by 3-20 to 1-9) but even then I felt they had a lot offer - we got the breaks that day,” he said. “Against Wexford we saw the spirit that was in the team. They outfought Wexford in the semi-final to the bitter end, which is something we knew they would do in the final as well. We were well up for it, but knew we had serious challenge ahead.”
Starting with a powerful performance helped Kilkenny go in comfortably ahead at the break. There was a gap of nine points between the sides (1-11 to 0-5) but there was no room for complacency.
“The game is only over at the end,” smiled Hoban. “I know it’s a cliché, but you keep working and working until that final whistle.
“It was important that we didn’t allow Laois to score a goal,” he added. “I felt that if they couldn’t get a big score that we would be able to hold on. We wanted to keep things tight at the back and make sure the lads were completely focused.”
Much of that focus came from their training for the game.
“I thought the defending was excellent,” he said. “Our backs were disciplined, conceded very few frees while the ball we fed into the forwards was what we had worked on ahead of the game. Other things we had tried to improve at was the way we recycled the ball. The lads really took to training and put it into practice.”
And the hard work has almost paid off. Kilkenny are within touching distance of the big one.
“We’re in a semi-final now,” said Hoban. “The players are an hour away from an All-Ireland final. The challenge now is to rise up again.”