While every game brings a different challenge, the experience of previous battles can be worth their weight in gold to a team.
The joy of reaching the All-Ireland final was plain to see on the face of Kilkenny corner-back Paul Murphy, who believed the Cats called on past matches and stayed calm to see off Limerick.
“In any match a team will have their purple patch,” he said. “It’s up to you to ride the storm. Teams will get a run on you and you’ll get your chances too. It’s a matter of taking them when they come.
“Limerick were on top a number of times, but we showed serious character to come back and put our scores over when we needed them,” he added. “We also had guys coming off the bench; Richie Power came on and really relieved some of the pressure. It was a serious effort.”
Pressure was something which Limerick brought in spades to Sunday’s game but the Danesfort man wasn’t surprised.
“Not in the slightest - and that’s not just us saying that after the final whistle,” he said. “Limerick’s work-rate is what makes them as a team. I think it’s their main aspect.
“The likes of Paul Browne and Donal O’Grady, their work-rate is huge. It starts inside with forwards like Graeme Mulcahy; these lads hound you when you have the ball.
“We knew it was going to happen from throw-in, but their intensity was a little higher than ours at the start. We got up to their level, but we knew what they were going to come with.
“That didn’t surprise us; because of that we were able to keep calm as we were expecting to be put under that pressure.
“We knew coming into the game that Limerick’s work-rate would be absolutely massive,” he continued. “It was going to be the same for the full 70 minutes, but thankfully we matched that.
“There were stages where they won the battle, others where we did too – the game ebbed and flowed but it could have gone either way. Everyone knows that.”
The Cats stayed calm in the heat of battle and went in two points up at half-time after Murphy’s club colleague Richie Hogan picked the perfect time to rattle off the opening goal.
“Getting a goal before half-time, regardless of the match, gives you a serious lift going into the dressing-room,” said Murphy. “However, Limerick went right down the other end and were inches away from getting their own score.
“Richie took it on himself to get that goal. He has been leading things from the start of the year and when he caught that ball - even though he’s been playing in midfield he’s experienced as a corner-forward - he knew what to do. He stuck it away and gave us a great lift.
“To go in with the lead was a massive lift,” he added. “It came at the right time.”
Murphy was well-placed to see that late Limerick chance, when a Graeme Mulcahy shot dropped short and David Breen tried to pounce.
“I knew it was going to be dangerous because the weather made the sliotar hard to catch,” the corner-back said. “The rain also meant that if you put your hurl up to make a block the ball would skid off it too.
“When the ball dropped right under the crossbar I knew it was going to be a hard decision for David (Herity) to make.
“When it broke the ball flicked around between a few players, but I saw J.J. (Delaney) swiping at it - my hurley was gone at that stage so all you can do is try and boot the ball to safety. We did well to get the ball clear, but it could have gone into the net just as easily.”
That second half brought more pressure (not to mention rain!) as Limerick drove on again. It was exactly what Murphy expected from the opposition.
“We knew they were capable of making that second half charge,” he said. “We knew they weren’t going to give up. They were disappointed that they hadn’t performed they way they wanted to in last year’s semi-final, so this year they were determined to make up for it.
“I know they didn’t come out on the right side of the result, but they made up for last year,” he added. “They had their time in control, we had ours - thankfully we got through. It’s a massive tribute to how they played today.”
The win was helped along by Richie Power’s second half goal, but what really stood out was the defensive display in the final quarter.
“There was a lot of hooking and blocking from both sides in the closing stages,” Murphy agreed.
“Play probably got a little sloppy - a lot of ball was going to ground, it was becoming crucial to stop scores at that stage because neither side wanted the other to get a run on them.
“The standard of hooking and blocking from both sides was savage - I think it reflected the level of commitment from both teams,” he added.
“You’d have to give great respect to Limerick, because you knew you were in a battle out there. I came out with the ball a few times, particularly in the first half, and there were guys hooking and blocking everywhere. You just couldn’t get away from them. It reflected the intensity of the whole game.”
The battle went right to the final whistle, with Murphy getting the last clearance.
I don’t think I realised that I had caught it for a split-second,” he admitted. “You could hear other lads coming in to make the challenge. A lot of days you wouldn’t catch that type of ball cleanly, especially with the conditions that were out there, but thankfully I caught that one.
Getting the result also ensured Kilkenny were back in the reckoning for the Liam MacCarthy Cup. After failing to even make the semi-finals last year, Murphy agreed that it had provided a little momentum for this year’s charge.
“Making the quarter-final last year wasn’t our aim,” he said. “To lose out and not make a semi-final, to not even reach Croke Park was a big loss.
“How we finished last year did give us a little motivation, but we’ve put the disappointment aside. We’re moving on.”