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Tyrrell: Cats still hungry

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Jackie Tyrrell. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Jackie Tyrrell. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Thomas Breen, Kilkenny, in action against Stephen Hiney, Dublin. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Thomas Breen, Kilkenny, in action against Stephen Hiney, Dublin. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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Jackie Tyrrell. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

KILKENNY would go on to play three more championship matches but, looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, Jackie Tyrrell can view June 29 as the "killer blow" to their dreams of three-in-a-row.

For it was on that seismic Saturday evening that Dublin dumped Kilkenny out of Leinster in a history-making replay.

It wasn't that losing in their own provincial fiefdom was such a unique event – they weren't even Leinster holders at the time – but defeat to the Dubs in SHC combat was a whole new ball game. More crucially, it catapulted Brian Cody's men down a congested qualifier detour that would ultimately turn into a Liam MacCarthy cul-de-sac.

Tipp one week; Waterford the next; then some brief respite before the Cats ran out of lives against Cork. Injuries, red cards, sky-high mileage, faltering form and fatigue all conspired against the reigning All-Ireland champions.

Ultimately it all proved too much, and Kilkenny were gone before the end of July and before they'd even had a chance to grace Croke Park.

Tomorrow evening, seemingly re-energised, they will be back in 'capital combat' although it won't be in Croker. Instead, Parnell Park is the rendezvous point for their latest Allianz Hurling League collision with Anthony Daly's Dublin.

They've already played them once this year (at Croke Park, in the Walsh Cup final) and made some amends for last year's Leinster semi-final.

Looking ahead to tomorrow's clash (7.0), Tyrrell brushes aside any notion of a Black-and-Amber revenge mission but the six-time All-Ireland winner concedes that losing to Dublin last June was a hammer blow from which they never fully recovered.

"It did disrupt us," he told the Herald yesterday. "You're playing every week then, and it was also the fact that we picked up a lot of injuries. Like, I had an injury; TJ Reid hurt his hamstring; there were a few others as well. Then you're playing from week to week and you're patching lads up, sending them out and trying to get them back out the following week.

Killer

"So it was a killer blow from that point of view. We had a lot of momentum, we'd won the league and we were in good form ... and that kind of knocked the stuffing out of us. We kind of struggled to recover afterwards."

Tyrrell was speaking at a promotional event for M&Ms – welcoming Ms Green M&M to Kilkenny City on the final leg of her official Tour of Ireland.

It might strike you as an unusual ambassadorial role for one of the most fearsome defenders in the business; be that as it may, there was no attempt from the long-serving corner-back to sugarcoat last summer's demise.

By the same token, Kilkenny aren't wallowing in that rare failure either. They've moved on; Brian Cody has revamped his backroom team and he's shaking up the team itself too, with wholesale experimentation this spring.

Several of the young guns have already caught the eye, while claiming four points from six (after consecutive home victories over Tipperary and Galway) leaves them relatively well placed going into their penultimate Division 1A fixture.

Tyrrell came on at half-time against Clare, didn't surface during their scorefest with Tipp, then played the full game against Galway.

Already he senses a greater level of competition for defensive places, adding: "Right throughout the team you'd notice it. Looking at the backs, you've Brian Kennedy; Cillian Buckley was very good last weekend at wing-back; Joey Holden has impressed; Michael Walsh has been very solid since he came in; you have Conor Fogarty.

"Then you've the lads who had the jersey last year, so there's probably 10 or 12 there and you've only six positions. So I think it's feeding back into Brian's message of building a panel and building a squad, because you're always going to have injuries within the year and you need a guy capable to slot in and not weaken any unit of the team."

Different

So then, does it seem like a different dressing-room? "Eh, not really," Tyrrell demurs. True, there's a different backroom dynamic with the arrival of former team-mates Derek Lyng and James McGarry as selectors, following the long-serving Martin Fogarty's departure ... but it's still "the same team, it's the same manager, it's the same goals, it's the same messages that are being given to us – to go out and to perform."

Last word on last summer: has there been any lasting damage to Kilkenny confidence?

"I wouldn't say confidence was dented or anything like that," he says.

"I'd say there was a huge disappointment within the panel – but with the new guys, the young lads, coming in, they have this abandon.

"They just go out and hurl, which is brilliant and it's a breath of fresh air ... that's the only thing you'd really notice. I don't see anyone with their heads down or there's no doubts creeping in.

"It's just all about trying to get a jersey, with a number one to 15 on its back."


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