The comfortable way Kilkenny are walking into the new hurling season is exactly what they wanted.
Game 1 - they beat DIT in the Walsh Cup. Game 2 - it was a step up in class against Galway. Game 3 - a final against the Walsh Cup and Leinster champions, Dublin. And in Croke Park at that!
“The build up of games is the way we like to see it happening,” admitted Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody after Sunday’s fine win over Galway. “The League will be a huge step up from this, though. Everyone is just trying out teams at the moment.”
The Noresiders will look at introducing more of the so called ‘regulars’ for Saturday’s (5pm) final.
“We are tying to build a panel, and expose as many players to hurling at this level as we can,” the James Stephens clubman added.
And he wasn’t one bit surprised at how well the new kids on the block were shaping up.
“We are not surprised that the new players are doing so well,” he insisted. “We have great confidence in the talent out there. An opportunity is what lads want. We are giving them that opportunity. It is all about creating a panel.”
Then he added a word of caution: “No one will know where they are until the days before the League starts when counties pick their teams.”
Sunday’s win earned Kilkenny another match, which was ideal preparation with the League opened against All-Ireland champions, Clare, in Ennis coming up on February 16.
“Matches at this time are good for us,” Mr Cody continued. “We are happy enough, yes. The fundamentals we are looking for from everyone involved in the squad are the same. They have to work for the team.
“Obvious when talking about new players coming in compared with players there a long time you want to see what their instincts are for the game, and all the rest. The fellows who are new to the scene are doing very well. We would be very, very happy with them.
“The atmosphere within the camp is good, and always has been. It was very good last year as well. We may not have played particularly well but the atmosphere at all times was good and solid. “
And then there was the Henry Shefflin situation.
“He was decent,” Mr Cody’s said of the Shamrocks man’s performance. “He is in great shape. Essentially this is the first pre-season he has had in four years. He is mad for it.
“He wants to play. The reality is fellows want to get into the team for the League. The same rules apply to everybody.
“Everybody wants to play and they want to play in these matches to put themselves into the frame for the League. In three weeks time we are in Clare, so they all want to be involved there if they can.
“A run of games like this is exactly what we wanted in the run up to the start of the League. We had a match last weekend. We had a good match today (Galway). Dublin coming up. Ideal!”