Kilkenny not far off the top cats, says Holden
Memories of 2015 are particularly clear for Joey Holden right now.
Back then, he was up the steps of the Hogan Stand on St Patrick's Day with Ballyhale Shamrocks and made the trip up again the following September as captain of Kilkenny.
While Ballyhale go in to Sunday week's AIB All-Ireland club SHC final as strong favourites to win a seventh title - a third for Holden - Kilkenny are behind Galway, Limerick, Cork and Tipperary in the betting to take home Liam MacCarthy this year. Holden, however, insists they won't be far off.
"We lost to Limerick by two or three points last year (0-27 to 1-22) and 'twas helter-skelter there for the last … we went ahead with maybe five minutes to go and they got a couple of great scores and won it," Holden recalled.
"But look at the amount of Limerick games that were draws and there were replays, they were barely getting over the line. I've never probably seen a hurling championship as close and so many teams that could win it, and so many teams that can provide shocks.
"If you can get on a roll of confidence and get winning games, that's what's key. I think Limerick built that confidence, with young lads starting to drive it on, thriving, and they just kept winning. And winning becomes a habit: if you can get that habit, it's going to be priceless."
Kilkenny have made a solid start even without their Ballyhale contingent but they are on their longest streak without an All-Ireland title since Brian Cody took charge in the winter of 1998.
"It's not really talked about amongst us. I didn't know that until you said it. I suppose it is a long run in Kilkenny given the tradition over the last decade or so. But we just have to believe in what we're doing in training.
"If you look at the Kilkenny club championship, how tight the games are and the attitude from all club players is fantastic and they go hammer and tongs at each other. So, if we can bring that in Kilkenny, I've no doubt that we'll be a match for any team we meet later on in the championship."
Holden won his first All-Ireland with Kilkenny at full-back but has more recently been used in the half-back line, and he insists he is happy to play anywhere for the Cats.
"I don't know if I've any natural position, some might say! But I suppose wing-back is where I would have started with Ballyhale."