A THREE week break between the All-Ireland hurling final and replay on September 30 is ideal for the players, because it amounts to a continuation of the championship norm as far as Kilkenny are concerned.
The Cats are in the rhythm of a game every three weeks now, so it will be more of the same for Brian Cody’s men according to injured star, Michael Rice, who found it much more difficult than normal being a specator on Sunday.
The St Kieran’s College teacher, who sustained an awful finger injury during the semi-final win over Tipperary, has no idea when he might be able to return, but it won’t be before the early months of 2013 at least.
Of Sunday’s clash, Rice suggested: “Having this game over, with Kilkenny the All-Ireland champions, would have been the perfect situation, but a draw is a better situation than we were facing at half-time.”
The All-Star said that because Sunday’s drawn final was so good, so incident packed and took so many twists and turns it was exhausting being a spectator.
“It would have been easier, less draining emotionally to be playing,” he smiled.
“It is a definite help that the game is not next week,” Michael continued. “There is time to refocus. The players can wind down a bit and then begin to build up again. It is an All-Ireland final. It is not as if you are slogging it out in some match early in the year. This is the an All-Ireland final, the ultimate.
“Everyone must give it everything. They can’t hold back, so the players need to give their bodies time to recover. The lads will be looking forward to another big game in three weeks time. It is another great opportunity. The boys won’t mind that at all.”
The Carrickshock clubman felt Kilkenny should be happy enough with a draw after “an incredible game.” Galway, he said, really put it up to Kilkenny.
“We missed a few chances early on, and as things were going well for them, you could see them growing in confidence,” he suggested. “Look, our lads fought brilliantly to come back. They had to. There was one or two ways the game could have gone at half-time, but all the advantages seemed to be with Galway.
“In the second half the Kilkenny players drove it on. It was brilliant to watch the power, skill, passion and everything else they brought to the game. They gave it their all on the field.
“The first half was hard on us because Galway had been on top generally. The main thing was that we were in touch at half-time. We weren’t gone out the back door altogether.
“It was a case of battling along and staying in touch after that. When the lads did open up and play in the second half they were within touching distance the whole time. This was high pressure stuff. Pressure in an All-Ireland final could break you. But to see Henry Shefflin standing up and hitting frees over from 70 and 80 yards would inspire you.
“You are nearly looking away looking for the puck-out because you think he will just pop them over the bar. It is amazing the way he does it.
He is the epitome of how deal with pressure. It is great. Lads have to be able to do it; that is why they are able to survive at this level.”
Every player, he insisted, needed to work his socks off or his team would have lost. If anyone gave up it was curtains.
“These Kilkenny players don’t do giving up, which is great.”
He was surprised to learn that Kilkenny were also involved in the last drawn All-Ireland final in 1959, on that occasion against Waterford.
“It is obviously a very unusual situation to be in,” he smiled. “Having another crack at the All-Ireland title is not a bad thing, but it is about winning, nothing else.”