KILKENNY played a ‘keep ball’ game of such elegance at times during Sunday’s convincing win over Tipperary in the Allianz National Hurling League that it appeared as if they were being coached out a soccer manual.
But there was no such plan in the background dictating their game. The players were simply giving free expression to their liberal talents.
“That is all part of playing together, of building up team work,” suggested team manger, Brian Cody, when questioned about why the players were so good at retaining possession and knitting together some beautiful patches of link up play.
“They understand each others play. They use their experience as well, but you would expect that. They played the ball around very well. They created things very well.
“It is instinctive to them retain possession. We are not into any sort of tactical stuff at this time of year at all. We are into fitness work and so on, and a small bit of hurling on top of that.
“What is in the players is coming out naturally,” he said by way of explanation of a brand of hurling that is a fair departure from the old get-and-deliver approach.
The James Stephens clubman described Sunday’s effort as “a good start to the League.”
“It was a good display, a good win,” said the boss of 14 season. “We got a good start and we got a small bit of a lead. Tipperary came back at us as they were going to. It was decent battle the whole way through.
“Eoin Larkin’s second goal gave us that bit of breathing space. We created chances, as they did too in fairness. The standard of hurling was good for the time of year.
“There are only a short few matches in the League and it was important to try and get a win under our belts. We are happy the way things went.”
With only five games guranteed to every county during the reshaped League, the room for errors was very slim, very slim indeed.
“We will have to wait and see what difference there will be,” said Mr Cody of the new situation in the League. “The games will be competitive for sure. Every game will be competitive. The top teams are there. Things will be interesting from that point of view.
“As regards everything else, I don’t the new situation was what County Boards and counties were looking for but that is the situation we find ourselves in. We want to get the maximum out of the League. We will target winning matches and getting to the knock-out stages.
Want to look at players
“We would love to win it obviously. At the same time it is important to look at players, to try one or two in every match. We will see how it goes.
“At the end of the League if we haven’t got the opportunity to look at players the competition won’t have been something which will have been of much benefit to us.”
Mr Cody explained that defender, J.J. Delaney was withdrawn during the match because his hamstring tightened up, and the selectors didn’t want to risk him picking up a more serious injury. Richie Hogan, although picked to start, stood down, again because of a hamstring strain.
“We didn’t take a chance with any of them,” was the message from the manager.
On Sunday in Nowlan Park (2pm), in the region of a dozen Kilkenny players will be involved with Leinster in the Railway Cup final against Connacht, and then the following week it will be back to National League action in Waterford.
“One game down and four more to go. Beating Tipperary was important,” Mr Cody insisted. “Our intention in every game will be to try and win.”