Hard earned win has set up Kilkenny nicely

Michael Rice

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Michael Rice

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@kilkennypeoplesport

Hard earned win has set up Kilkenny nicely

Michael Fennelly was powerful for Kilkenny

Getting back into action so quickly after the tough match against Limerick is going to be very challenging.
These matches involve serious physical and mental demands. It is hard to weight up which is the harder, the physical or mental side of things.
Physically the lads are so well conditioned now it shouldn’t be a problem.
After getting back on the road again with a good win, the lads will be mad for action.
However, there can be a certain tiredness associated with a match which is not physical. When you build up to a match you play it out in your head; you try and prepare for things that might happen during it; you want to think things through about your own game.
There can be an element of nerves too. All these things can drain you mentally.
I always found after a big championship match that it could be three or four days before you came down from the high of the effort and a victory.
Even going training the days after a big game it was hard to recover the zip, passion and drive. And no matter how hard you tried, it just wasn’t there because you had given so much during the previous match.
Played blinder
That is where Brian (Cody) has played a blinder over the past 20 years or so. The way he allowed players go back to their clubs for games was hugely important in the way it helped energise you.
That break is not there now, but he has lots of experience in how to help the group and individuals through demanding times like this.
That is why going through the front door is so important. You get plenty of time to recover after what are hugely demanding, physically and mentally, efforts in games.
The draw for Saturday’s Qualifier against Waterford makes no great difference. One draw is as tough as the other.
Looking at it people might think Dublin were the weakest of the three options, and they were the team to get.
But then that brings another mental issue. If you took such a draw for granted you could be in trouble.
I think getting a tough draw like Waterford helps sharpen the mind going forward.
Good to get real test
Because both put in what they would regard as poor performances in the Leinster and Munster championships they are still a bit unsure about themselves.
I would be happy from a Kilkenny point of view that we have had a real test going into this match. We probably learned a bit more from playing Limerick than Waterford did against Offaly.
When I heard the draw my reaction was no different than it would have been if we had drawn Tipperary.
If it had been Dublin I would have said we should win that one. However, with Waterford or Tipperary you known things are up in the air. It is a 50/50 match.
Waterford will look at this and think we had Kilkenny on the edge of the cliff last year and we didn’t kick them off it. We played them in 2015 and Kilkenny coasted home.
Go back to 2013 as well to that massive match in Thurles. Again, Waterford would be thinking they had Kilkenny in trouble and they didn’t finish the job.
In a way they have their own issues, just like Kilkenny.
There are uncertainties on both sides. That is the nature of the Qualifiers, I suppose.
If you are winning, you are full of confidence. If you have lost a match there can be a little bit of uncertainty.
I think we saw that in Kilkenny’s performance against Limerick.
Winning changes
But winning can change things. I would think there is a good feeling in the Kilkenny camp this week, albeit with the realisation that we were not 100% on Saturday.
There are things to be improved. That is great. That helps sharpen the mind.
Mentally it keeps you hard as opposed to being soft if you had scored an easy win over a struggling team.
It is a good thing going forward the way Kilkenny won on Saturday.
An awful lot of people failed to give Limerick any credit for the way they performed. People expected Kilkenny to destroy Limerick. We never did that to them.
During the opening 20 minutes both sides stuttered a lot. There was a bit of uncertainty there; a lack of confidence.
At different times I think Kilkenny got into a nice flow and we were saying ’yes, this is the Kilkenny we want to see’. Things are not 100% yet, but hopefully in a week’s time there will be more spark to the effort.
You don’t have to be the finished product at this stage of the season. This is the time when you take performances asunder and picked out things that must be improved.
You want to be building, building, building right through to the Summer. Kilkenny are doing that. They in a good place after getting over a difficult draw.
The key positions at 3 and 6 that Kilkenny fans were most concerned about seem to be sorted. Padraig Walsh (at 3) and Cillian Buckley (at 6) were excellent.
Paul Murphy must have had a pain in his arm hitting ball. That was Paul at his best, attacking the ball constantly.
Looking at him I could see he was in the zone. He wasn’t thinking. He was just hurling. The ball appeared to be coming to him because he was reading things so well.
The half-back line was good. Conor Fogarty was as solid as ever. On the other side Joey Holden and Joe Lyng did well.
Both grew into the match without being spectacular. They were solid. They gained in confidence as the game wore on. The game was probably something both needed.
They will be all the better for the experience.
Looking at midfield, Fenno (Michael Fennelly) was awesome. I don’t know how the man does it, producing big performances like that after being out for so long.
No one had any right to expect any more form Paddy Deegan, who is only a young lad still finding his way.
Then you look at Lester Ryan coming in. I thought he was excellent. He probably did more in the 15 or 20 minutes he was on than most lads would do in two matches.
He scored two points. He got in an unbelievable hook that many might not make much of. I watched his run. He read the situation brilliantly. That was a great sign.
Looking at the forwards I thought T.J. Reid was excellent, especially in the air.
With the others I can see them getting there.
Saturday’s is a winnable game. I think it will be tougher than the Limerick match, and we will have to improve.
Improvement
The improvement will be there because we have come through a searching test. There is a more settled look to the team too.
I couldn’t see the team changing a whole lot facing Waterford.
There was a lot of uncertainty about everything last week. There is less now. That is important, vitally important.
I know Brian (Cody) always speaks about not minding about a settled team once you have a settled spirit. But you want 12 out of the 15 positions fairly settled.
Kilkenny are in a decent enough place. Moving forward we have more certainty about the team; we have come through a tough battle and confidence must be better.