SUNDAY’S defeat against Galway in the All-Ireland final repeat may have been Kilkenny’s first at the start of the National Hurling League in 14 years under the reign of manager, Brian Cody, but the James Stephens man wasn’t unduly put out.
“We were reasonably happy with the display,” was the assessment of the manager after a match in which Kilkenny chased most of the way and were there with a chance of sneaking a share of the spoils at the finish.
“We conceded three goals, which gave Galway a huge advantage,” he added.
“It wasn’t a bad display at all. We could have caved in after conceding the three goals in the first half, but we didn’t. The players kept at it. The performance was decent.
“At this time of the year you look for absolute genuineness and commitment. That was there. We were competitive all the way.”
The visitors to Pearse Stadium were robbed of a massive array of talent because of long term injuries suffered by Henry Shefflin (ankle), T.J. Reid (knee), Michel Rice (finger) and Richie Doyle (hip). On top of that, former Hurler of the Year, Michael Fennelly cried off when afflicted by a back spasm shortly before the team left the dressing-room.
His place in attack was taken by Eoin Larkin, who the selectors had hoped to rest becuase he is nursing an injury.
Mr Cody made no excuses.
“Obviously we are disappointed to lose,” he said, “but overall it was not too bad. To concede three goals was a huge amount, and we didn’t score a goal ourselves. That left us trying to make up a lot of ground.
“Still at the end we were fighting for a draw. Overall it wasn’t too bad. We missed three handy frees in the second half, but look, those things happen.”
He said the League opened the door of opportunity for others outside of those who were on the first team last year to force their way into the team.
“The League gives an opportunity to lads to claim a place,” he continued. “That is what they were about today.”
He said it was hard to know when the players listed above would be fit to return but it “will be a while”, he ventured.
Cillian Buckley (hip) was not too bad and was making steady progress after surgery, but it was hard to know about Walter Walsh (knee) he added.
“We have injuries, but they are all part and parcel of the game,” was his summary of the situation.
Next up for Kilkenny, the defending champions, will be Tipperary in Semple Stadium on Sunday week.
“Both teams need the points now,” he said in reference to both losing at the weekend. “The clash in the next round will be very interesting. This League is very competitive, and there will be nothing soft for anyone.
“Galway have the advantage now,” he added. “But look, the next round will be very, very important and the picture could change again. Will will continue to do our best and be competitive, and we will see where that takes us.”
Kilkenny have had a lot to say about the new sideline regulations introduced by the GAA, which restrict the number of active officials on duty to five, including hurley and water carriers.
So what did Mr Cody think after his first experience of the new rules?
“I still don’t see the point,” he insisted. “I just don’t, to be honest. I am not going to continue talking and talking about it. We didn’t make any protest about it. We had the people where they were supposed to be.
“Like I said, I would much prefer to have our third selector on the sideline. I would much prefer to have our team doctor on the sideline.”