Leaking four goals is far from ideal - especially from a back’s point of view - but Kieran Joyce looked at the positives from Sunday’s result.
“No back wants to concede goals,” he said in the aftermath of Kilkenny’s 0-26 to 4-9 Leinster quarter-final win over Offaly. “Of course, you’d be disappointed about it, but it’s part of the learning curve. Once we got the win that was the main thing.
“The first goal came from a shot that hit the post in the first minute,” Joyce added, reflecting on Colin Egan’s opening score, which after Joe Bergin’s point attempt struck an upright. “We weren’t alert for that, but we’ll learn from that. Hopefully we won’t let it happen in the next match. It was a great test today but we’re delighted to have secured the win.”
Joyce could see something in the sentiment that you can concede as many goals as you like as long as you’re on the winning side.
“The result is what matters most,” he said. “We knew coming up to Tullamore that it was going to be tough, especially on a such a warm day. Offaly were really up for the game and the crowd were too - they really geed the players on. We had a fight on our hands, but we’re delighted to come away with a place in the Leinster semi-finals.”
The atmosphere lent itself to the occasion, something Joyce agreed with. Tullamore being a smaller venue meant the crowd was almost on the players, much like when the National Hurling League final was played in Nowlan Park.
“There was a great buzz there and it was a great day - probably the best of the year so far,” the Rower-Inistioge man said. “There’s no better place you’d want to be. The crowd was almost on the line roaring on the players - it was only a shame that the game wasn’t in Nowlan Park!”
Given that it was 25 degrees, the only downside was that the half-backs saw so much of the ball. Joyce smiled at that, but agreed that he and his defensive colleagues coped well in what proved to be cramped conditions.
“It was a tight game - we in the backs like games a little tight - but when the space began to open up the midfielders and half-forwards did as they always do and tracked back well,” he said. “We try to cover each other as best as possible.
“A lot of ball went over our heads in the first half, which made things hard. The full-back line wanted to stay back as much as they could but with Offaly pushed up it was like being caught in no man’s land at times.
“With someone like Brian Hogan there Offaly knew they couldn’t put too much high ball down on top of him, so they tried to play around him. All you can do in that situation is stay with your man and try to limit the space he has.
“Even though Tullamore is a tight pitch we’re going to get bigger pitches as the season goes on,” he added. “There’ll be more space to contend with, but we’ll adapt to it.”
Whatever about adapting to space, Kilkenny had no such problems when it came to killing off the Faithful County’s momentum. Much of that stemmed from an interval ‘chat’ the players used to help step up the pace.
“We had a talk in the dressing-room at half-time,” Joyce said after Kilkenny went in a point behind (2-6 to 0-11). “We knew we weren’t playing to our best. We knew we had a lot left in the tank for the second half so we came out ready to give everything. The forwards came out very well at the start and took their scores and helped us get the win we wanted.”
And even though they get on the field, the injured Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly played their parts in victory.
“Henry and Michael have been in there (the dressing-room) encouraging us the whole time,” said Joyce.
“I know they can’t be on the field, but they’re there. Their leadership has been there.”