While scores win games, Kilkenny’s appetite to work and work proved just as valuable in the quest for Leinster glory.
“Some of the experienced lads on the team were out on their feet near the end,” said Kilkenny under-20 manager DJ Carey, “but unless you outwork the opposition you won’t win the game.”
The Cats hurling legend was thrilled at his side’s performance in their four-point win over Galway. It was a top-class result which came against a top-class opponent.
“We could class ourselves as one of the best teams in the country but so do Galway,” he said.
“We knew if we didn’t outwork them, we wouldn’t get too far. Guys like Evan Shefflin and Niall Brassil were out on their feet at the end of the game, but they really worked their socks off. That’s all you can ask for.”
It was a complete team performance, the manager reckoned. And, when players tired, others took up the mantle and carried the side forward.
“I thought David Blanchfield was fantastic,” said Carey, reviewing the performance. “Conor Heary didn’t train since the Laois game as he had a slight concussion but delivered a great game as did Mikey Butler and Eoin Cody.
“That’s picking out players but there were unsung heroes in there too – Sean Ryan tapped over points when they were badly needed while Aaron Brennan did so much work too,” he added.
“When the blocks and hooks go in that’s what really counts.”
The Cats had to give their all, especially in the early stages when Galway tore into the game.
“Galway made the start we were probably looking for, but when we settled we hurled well,” the manager said. “We played really well until the closing stages of the second half; whether it was the five minutes of injury-time or not we couldn’t seem to put the game to bed.”
The pressure was on at times, but the players continued to play the game and not the occasion.
“Lads take on their own roles when they get on the field and that’s ok,” the manager said. “We see a fair bit from the sideline but on the field is where it’s happening. We had Eoin Cody as a target – he’s on fire at the minute – and we wanted to get as much ball into him.
“No matter what you say to lads about going out there and hurling with freedom it’s a pressure game; one defeat and you’re out,” added Carey.
“After the seniors and minors losing there would have been more pressure on the lads. We wanted that win and we wanted it badly. I know there were four points in it at the end, but I think we were worth a little more.”
Kilkenny can now look forward to a Leinster final in the testing atmosphere of Wexford Park, but the pressure won’t be as great as in the past.
“The game won’t carry as much pressure as we are still in the All-Ireland semi-finals,” he said (this year the final four will be made of the provincial finalists from Leinster and Munster) but we know we’ll be playing a very good team in Wexford. We’ll be going to win it, as will they, but it’s not a knockout.
That said, the Cats would still like to get their hands on the title.
“Silverware would be lovely,” he said with a smile.
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