KILKENNY defender, Kieran Joyce, learned the coping skills needed to survive at the highest level in championship hurling in the simplest way possible....by training hard, writes John Knox.
The big hearted Rower-Inistioge player met the demands when asked to fill in for the injured Brain Hogan in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick, and he followed up with an accomplished showing against Tipperary on Sunday.
“It was something to be thrown into a quarter-final and then the semi-final,” Kieran smiled when we spoke in the Kilkenny dressing-room. “Last year I was a spectator watching the All-Ireland final and seeing the effort that was needed to win.
“Watching the training and being involved in the intense training before last year’s final prepared me for these tests, and any test. It is bred into us.”
Delighted to start
His approach to the game was simple. He picked up his man and stuck with him.
“I was delighted to get the start,” he said. “My approach was to do my best and I trusted everyone. I kept things simple. I never over complicate my hurling.
“I don’t get too worried before gmaes. I had a few butterflies in the stomach coming into the stadium. But once you get out on the pitch and get a few pucks you sort of lose it. You get caught in the moment and think game, and game only.
“You see, the intensity in training is unreal. Having to mark the Kilkenny forwards in training is nearly the greatest test you could get. If you can mark the Kilkenny forwards in training you can mark anyone. That is the kind of belief you have to have.
“That gives you belief and confidence. At the start of the season the team looked settled and you wonder will you get a chance. But injuries happen, and you have to be ready. Hogey (Brian) picked up an injury and I got my opportunity in the Limerick game. I was the beneficiary of his bad luck.
“I love this. Being involved is even better than I ever thought it might be. For years I used to sit in the stadium and watch, wondering what the magic formula was. It is just hard work.
“There is no magic formula. It is hard work and there is fierce belief in the team. When you are playing with the likes of J.J. Delaney and Tommy Walsh you have no fears. They are there for you in the best and toughest of times.”
T.J. Reid bounced back big times after losing out on a starting place for the quarter-finals to produce two stunning performances back-to-back.
“I enjoyed that,” he smiled. “The main thing is that we are in an All-Ireland final.”
He was given the good news by manager, Brian Cody, and selector Martin Fogarty last week that he would be starting against Tipp.
“When I heard that I worked on getting myself right,” T.J. continued. “I got myself focussed. I believed. I believe I have it, I have what it takes, but sometimes my work rate during games doesn’t come right. You have to have belief and confidence.
“If you don’t have confidence in yourself at this level you have no hope. I went out to prove to myself that I am capable of mixing it with the best. I put the challenge to myself, and I went out to work my socks off. I think things worked out well.
“The scores came for me, which was lucky, but they were secondary. Being involved in lots of the play was important to me. The closing 10 minutes were great, I really enjoyed them. We knew we had the match won and we were in the final.
“It was a very tough game, especially the first half. We went out in the second half to go at Tipp, to continue to go at them. That is what we did. ‘Taggy’ burst straight through for a goal. Eoin went through for another and I got through for one too. The goals killed them off.”