Lesson at school of hard 'Rocks' made me hit gym - Reid
Published 01/07/2016 | 02:30
It was early in his career but TJ Reid can remember the sinking feeling after clashing with the likes Sean Og O hAilpin or Diarmuid 'The Rock' O'Sullivan and losing out. And not because of his hurling talent, but because he hadn't enough done work in the gym.
It grated with him enough to prompt some deep introspection. Gym work was a part of his life but it wasn't regular enough or hard enough and five years ago, he made a decision to go and pack on a few kilos.
He's not sure exactly how much heft he has put on but he's a different body shape now and much more physically imposing.
And it's probably why Herbalife brought him on board as an ambassador ahead of Sunday's Leinster final clash with Galway.
"I'm with Kilkenny maybe ten years and starting off (strength and conditioning) probably wasn't as clued in as it is now," said Reid.
"You have teams wearing GPS going around the hurling field and so on. Lads' condition is more monitored now. Body fat tests are being done but for myself it is only the last five years I suppose.
"It helps of course. Nutrition and conditioning helps anyone. I said to myself a few years ago that my hurling was there and my ability to hurl was there but mentally and physically maybe I wasn't there.
"Going back it was a man's game and if you were a young lad going out against the likes of the Rock and Sean Og O hAilpin, they were strong men. The game has changed now in that you need speed now more so than physicality.
"For myself I concentrated on conditioning and nutrition and I think it has helped. You can't always say to yourself it's working. You have to keep working I had a good year last year and I'm looking to improve things from last year.
"I got into the habit of going to the gym. Maybe I wasn't consistent enough back then but that's the past and the present is now and we have Galway coming up in a Leinster final."
Reid is in the form of his life. The reigning Hurler of the Year, he was nominated for that award in 2014 too. In fact, for the last two seasons, himself, Richie Hogan and Tipperary's Seamus Callanan have made it to the shortlist and no-one will be overly surprised if those three are named again come the end of the Championship.
Already a marked man, his good form has brought him even further into the opposition spotlight.
Brendan Bugler tracked him for large parts of the League quarter-final against Clare and Reid believes he is being watched more closely these days.
"Yeah, I just have to deal with it," he said. "I just have to get tough and grind my teeth and deal with it.
"Look, Galway will have different tactics. I suppose for myself, I just have to think that I'll probably be marked tighter so you have to make sure you're mentally right going out in the game and knowing there's a lad going to be hitting off you and pulling your jersey.
"You just have to grind your teeth and get on with it."
Galway's rivalry with Kilkenny is storied but its one-sided as well of late.
Of the last ten Championship meetings between the sides, the 2012 Leinster final is the only time the Cats have been on the receiving end. The best Galway have managed after that was a pair of draws.
But after last year's All-Ireland final defeat, Ballyhale man Reid expects a motivated Galway to show up in Croke Park.
"One to 15, they can all hurl, they have great players, great men up front. Just going back to 2012, the year of the draw and replay, they can bring a totally spirited group and when they bring that they're a very hard team to play against.
"They're all big men too and all the forwards are well able to hurl. Their overall work rate as a team, they're physical and they're strong and they're well able to score too.
"If it was ourselves after losing to Galway last year and we facing them now in the Leinster final, we'd be motivated. We'd be as hungry as hell to go out and beat them.
"So in that Galway dressing-room, I'm fully aware of how motivated they are to beat us."