James Maher played well against Dublin
Kilkenny made their own luck to defeat Dublin in the Leinster Round Robin senior hurling championship series by simply never giving up, thrilled boss Brian Cody insisted afterwards.
The Dubs were unlucky to lose, he admitted, but the opposition had to be showered with credit for never giving up.
“When you win a game like that you can say you’re lucky, or you can say there’s tremendous credit due to the players for their never-say-die spirit and attitude to keep going,” the James Stephens man suggested when asked straight up if Kilkenny were charmed to win.
“We had a very inexperienced team out there. We had a lot of fellas in a whole new challenge; their first championship game. There’s huge credit due to them the way they fought to the bitter end.
“Are Dublin in hard luck? For sure, they put in an outstanding performance but we kept it going and the goal at the end was crucial.”
The return to action of Colin Fennelly, who scored three points, and Paul Murphy, who had a storming closing quarter, after returning from a six months tour of duty with the Irish Army in South Lebanon was a massive lift to all involved in the camp.
“Paul and Colin have obviously been away, but they are two very experienced players and they came on and played their part,” Cody insisted. “But so many other fellas were out there too.
“The young and inexperienced players never gave up. The ball doesn’t run for everybody every day, but it’s the collective thing, and the collective thing was strong.”
He was thrilled with the way the younger players performed. The championship tells the real story about players, he felt, but Kilkenny learned a good bit about the newcomers in the National League as well.
“After two games in the League we were staring at the other end of the table, and they reacted very well to that,” he reminded. “You can’t buy experience. Like anything in life, you have to sample the action in the championship to learn exactly what it’s like.
“Everybody speaks about the challenge of coming to Parnell Park - for every player.
“For players coming here for the first time it’s daunting. It’s a challenge. They all stood up to it very well. It didn’t run for all of them, but it didn’t run for some of our experienced players either.
“But again it’s never about one or two players. It’s about the collective; the spirit, the attitude and playing to the final whistle. You keep going until then.”
When asked he said the selectors thought long and hard about picking the team and including seven players for their championship debut. Picking the team was difficult because of the depth of talent, but so too was the picking of the 26 to make up the match day panel.
“There were players who weren’t togged out who were as good as the players who were togged out,” he suggested. “Then it’s who makes up the first XV. Again, that’s about trying to juggle it and get it right.
“I would have every confidence in every player we have and like I said, everyone’s attitude is good and everyone’s drive to achieve is there. Did we bat an eyelid? We thought about it long and hard and the decisions we made were the decisions we made.”
Dublin created a good number of goal chances, and he was asked was that a worry?
“Look, every time they scored a goal it was a nail in our coffin,” the James Stephens clubman offered. “Of course we don’t want to be conceding goals, but that’s hurling. It can go like that.
“It’s not a question of panicking if it happens. You could say some of our hurling wasn’t great at times, and it wasn’t, but it’s a game where you just have to keep going and keep at it and realise that four, five, six, seven points of a lead is not insurmountable at all.
“You try to work at it and create and create and work and work. We did that. We just got there in the end.”
When asked for his view of the performance of Liam Rushe he reminded he had just been speaking about experienced players. Rushe was probably one of the most experienced out there, he felt.
“You can’t buy experience, but he’s bought it several times,” he continued. “Of course he’s a very, very good player. The challenge was all over the field. It’s not a question of causing us problems. It's a question of how we deal with him and how we all work together for the sake of the team.
“The reality is that he did cause trouble. Our dressing-room is quiet in there. It’s absolute relief, of course it is. It almost feels like ‘did we win it?’ Yes we did! Am I happy? I'm delighted because of the fact that we're walking away with two points.
“We could have been walking away with no points. Then there is real pressure on. There's still pressure on, terrific pressure. We play Offaly next Sunday and it's going to be so similar to today and easily as difficult.”
He wasn’t sure of the story on injuries immediately after the game. James Maher rolled an ankle.
“Talk about pressure on players,” he said when he went off in a different direction. “Two of our players did exams yesterday morning and they're going back to do more exams tomorrow morning. We can look on from the sidelines and say ‘I wonder why he's not going great’.
“I’m sure Dublin were in the same situation because May is the time for Third Level students and exams. That’s tough, studying for an exam yesterday, go back and study for another exam tonight for tomorrow morning. There’s tremendous credit due to those players.”
The story on former Hurler of the Year, Richie Hogan, was different. He may not be ready to face Offaly.
He was battling to regain full fitness after missing the National League with a back injury. Last week he strained a hamstring. His fitness will be assessed later in the week.