A LATE CHANGE in the ranks might be tough on some teams, but Kilkenny’s stride wasn’t checked as they bounced to two more League points on Sunday.
The Cats never let the absence of full-back J.J. Delaney hurt them as their reshuffled back-line got to grips with Clare and worked their way to a second win in succession.
“It was a loss the way we lost J.J. before the game but Kieran Joyce slotted in at full-back and did a great job,” said centre-back Brian Hogan. “No-one likes to see a team-mate miss out on a game so late on, but these things happen - you could have to make a change like that as much during a game as before it.
“Generally we (the backs) have a talk before the game, so it was just a matter of going to Kieran and discussing things with him before the throw-in,” he added. “It didn’t change how I needed to approach the game - maybe it did for him as he was going from the half-back line where he can be a bit more attack-minded into a full-back position where it’s more of a holding role.”
With Delaney joining an injury list which already included Paul Murphy and Jackie Tyrrell, it was a new Kilkenny full-back line that took on Clare, but Hogan felt his colleagues Paddy Hogan, Joyce and Conor Fogarty acquitted themselves well.
“The lads would have played in the backs with their clubs so they are well able to hurl,” he said. “Kieran has played at full-back for the Rower and at under-21 level for Kilkenny so it’s not alien to him.
“Naturally, when some new guys come into the backs you’re not as used to their game as you would be to others; it takes a bit of getting used to, but we’ve been hurling together in training and the new guys are well able to play - they’re super hurlers, so it’s not that huge an issue.”
Came to fore
The backs came to the fore in the second half, rushing Clare into taking early shots which drove up their wide count. Although the Bannermen had a second half wide tally in double figures, Hogan was still happy at how the Kilkenny backs snuffed out those chances.
“It was a little bit tricky as there were a few cases where you could say we didn’t put the pressure on enough and it was just poor shooting on their behalf, but there were other cases where we worked well and got half-hooks and whatever, where we did just enough to put them off,” he said.
“They are small margins in these games, but they make a difference. At this time of year it’s never going to be perfect - equally so from Clare’s point of view. They’ll look at the game and say they shot too many wides, but it’s how you perform over the 70 minutes and what you take from it.”
It was a bitterly cold day in Ennis, but the crowd who turned out for the game helped to heat things up.
“There was a great crowd who really got into the game,” he said, appreciating the crowd and tight confines of Cusack Park. “Sometimes the League games can be a bit subdued, but the crowd played their part and let themselves be known there in the game.
“Clare were putting in a lot of tackles and trying to close us down, to pressurize us, he said of the onfield opposition. “It’s something we were trying as well at the other end, but certainly it was evident from their perspective in the first 30 minutes that they were trying to stop us from clearing long balls.
“It was a good atmosphere there,” Hogan added. “Both teams knew it was all to play for as a win was going to be huge for either side.”