SITTING in the winners’ dressing-room, not long after beating Waterford, Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity was still coming to terms that he was heading for an All-Ireland final.
“I can’t believe it, to be honest,” he said. “You always dream of the day that you get into an All-Ireland final - I can’t believe it’s here now. It’s fantastic.”
Typically, the modest netminder was quick to palm the praise off on to his colleagues.
“The lads were unbelievable,” he said. “Even when things weren’t going their way they still weren’t conceding scores. The backs kept in there, while the lads who came into the game - guys like Eddie (Brennan) and Paddy (Hogan) - tacked on points to keep us going. But to get back to a final again, even after losing last year is great. Things were a bit down after the League final, but to have everyone lift it (their game) again has been brilliant.”
Given the limited amount of ball they may see in a game goalkeepers are a patient lot. Herity was at his best when called upon in Sunday’s game, but the Dunnamaggin has also played the waiting game in his quest to win the Number One jersey.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “Richie O’Neill was sub goalkeeper there for years and was unlucky to suffer two cruciate knee injuries.
“A few breaks have gone my way, but I don’t think you can come and go straight on to a team,” he said. “It’s a completely different set-up when you come into this panel; it’s a huge step up from the club game. That’s the first thing I learned when I came in here (the Kilkenny scene). You need two or three years to get used to things, from training to Walsh Cup games to get used to the intensity of League and championship matches. It’s a gigantic step up.”
Even the change in play from the National Hurling League to the championship is something else Herity has had to get to grips with.
“The League is unbelievable; it gets you used to days like this,” he said. “It was great for us this year as we got to play in Croke Park this year before the championship - that game against Dublin was the first time I’d played in Croke Park in ten years, the first time since the minor semi-final. Getting those chances before the Leinster final was great, as it helps you get used to the pitch, as well as the preparation of coming up for the match.”
The game - never much in it. Waterford got their goal at the right time but Kilkenny did the same with their second.
Richie’s goal came at the right time,” he agreed. “It was the same as in the Dublin match, when they brought the gap down from nine to six we went straight down the field and got another goal.
“There were stages in the game where Waterford brought an extra man back in defence and weren’t working their forwards,” said Herity. “They were pumping a lot of ball in at the target but Jackie Tyrrell was unbelievable the way he kept picking up a lot of possession and clearing it. There were one or two close calls - Paul Murphy made a few interceptions near the end; John Mullane also had a chance when he got through but tapped the sliotar over the bar. There were chances, but the few breaks didn’t go their way.”
Namechecking Mullane brought back memories of the great save Herity made to deny the De La Salle man a second goal in the game - not to mention the hefty challenge Herity took when he came off his line to make a clearance in the first half. He was kept busy, making crucial clearances, but had clearly done his homework ahead of the throw-in.
“It was unusual in that we picked up a lot of ball around the square, but I knew that Waterford would aim a lot of their attacks down towards Shane Walsh,” he said, offering an unique insight into the background work that goes into hurling at the highest level. “That was natural given the great game he had the last day when he scored 1-4 against Galway.
“I knew they’d try to pick him out, try to isolate Noel Hickey and use the long ball, but you prepare yourself for that. Thankfully it was a good dry day too, so it was easy to come out and pick up the ball.”
Kilkenny’s performance also allayed any fears there may have been about rustiness in the side after a four week lay-off. Some might have seen a month without action as a hindrance to a team, but not Herity.
“I don’t look at it as a negative - I think Kilkenny are used to it now,” he said. “Playing the semi-final after four weeks off is not like a shock to the system. Everyone is used to it and plans for it.
“A lot of the lads in the panel are around long enough and know how to prepare themselves if there is a lengthy lay-off,” he added. “There are another four weeks off now before the All-Ireland final, but we’ll go off and prepare to our best again.”