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JJ backing Cats to purr

SUCH are the vast dimensions of JJ Delaney's medal reserve, it's hard to know whether he's being modest or simply straight up when he says he's not entirely sure how many times he has won the league with Kilkenny.

"I don't count them ... and not just the league," he says, quite believably (for the record, it's six wins from eight finals).

"I couldn't tell you how many All-Ireland or Leinster medals I have either. I just look forward to the next game. It's when you retire, look back, that's when you count them. You can't afford to look back now."

Echoing one Brian Cody then, Delaney insists it's always about the next match, the next trophy, the next win, even if the added significance of this Sunday isn't quite lost on him.



It is, he admits, "the old enemy", coming to Nowlan Park in search of a major trophy, and to claim "the bragging rights for a few months coming up".

"Of course, in Nowlan Park, you always want to win in your back mind," he adds. "At the start of the year it was about making the final, and especially against Tipp."

Yet the match, and the build-up to it, will still be dominated by talk of Cody, or more specifically, his continued absence from the Kilkenny Bainisteóir bib.

Right now, they're doing a good job of proving he's not being missed but still, the issue hangs over the group and as long as the uncertainty about his return date remains, so too will the questions.

Delaney, like those inside the tent who had spoken before him, is just as much in the dark as anyone else, but he is sure of one thing.

"He'll just burst in the door in a couple of weeks, and you'll realise it's just back to business as usual," he explains. "He wouldn't be the sort of man to tell us. He's just taken himself out, get himself right, and when he comes back, he'll be back full tilt."

Still, it must be odd not having him there, patrolling training, watching every ball and every touch?

"It's different," Delaney admits. "When you're on the field you're looking over at him. It's the game days that he takes over.



"That's his baby more than anything. It is different looking over to the line and not seeing him there but, as I say, we just have to drive it on now without him."

So you haven't sent out an enquiring text as to his well-being?

"No! You leave him be! No news is good news when you don't hear from him. When he's talking to you you're probably in trouble. You leave well enough alone when you don't hear from him."

"If Brian thought he wouldn't be back for another month or whatever," Delaney adds, "he'd let Mick (Dempsey) know, he'd let Martin (Fogarty) know, ourselves too. He wouldn't let anything affect the run up to the Championship."

Until he returns to the hurling landscape again though, his absence will continue to dominate it.