'I didn't know it was coming at all' - DJ Carey couldn't turn down chance to join Brian Cody's Cats again
When DJ Carey stepped down as manager with the Kilkenny U-20s, it was with a view to taking a break.
Leading the U-20s to a Leinster title and being involved with IT Carlow's Fitzgibbon Cup team as well as taking charge of the Cats' minor footballers, 2019 has been a busy year for Carey. It all wrapped up, the idea of some down-time appealed.
That was until Brian Cody picked up the phone a few weeks ago and floated the idea of becoming a selector with the senior side.
When Carey agreed to meet his former manager, he was firmly against taking up the offer. One of his sons is on Cody's panel and another has designs on being there, too. But by the time he left the meeting with Cody, he was beginning to change his mind.
"I didn't know it was coming at all," Carey said at the launch of the Top Oil Leinster Post Primary Senior Hurling Championship.
"I stepped down from the U-20s to take a break and a few days after I got a call from Brian and we met. I would have been reluctant… my younger fella Mikey is on the panel and I have another fella who has ambitions… now he didn't have a good enough year with the club but would have ambitions about being on the panel, so it is an awkward enough situation there, but that wasn't taken as an excuse so here I am," Carey said.
At least part of Carey's reason for stepping down from the U-20 role stemmed from the suspension he was threatened with at one stage. He had played a challenge game in March, something that is against GAA regulations in the new competition format. But given that April was given to club players and around a dozen of his panel were sitting the Leaving Cert, it made preparing the team difficult.
"Personally I would class myself as having an exemplary record in the GAA, I would not like to be stepping out of line but come on, you're training a team to play in a Leinster Championship and there are only certain times (you can train) because in the month of April your players are gone so you are trying to get a few matches in March and you are threatened with suspension because you are not allowed play.
"I don't know what happened (with the suspension). I think it was some way out of it. But as far as I was concerned, we were down to play a match and that was it. You had to leave your players for the whole month of April, or near enough. So how could you prepare for an U-20?"
Now he's back alongside Cody, plotting ways to get Kilkenny back to the top of the tree after they went all the way to the final this year.
"Honestly, I would say Kilkenny did fantastically well to be in an All-Ireland final last year. I think it would have been above my expectations.
"I think we got to an All-Ireland final… not lacking hurling but (by) pure grit and determination and (being) in-your-face - going for every ball, tackling for every ball and every ball counts, every ball mattered. I think we still have to get up to a level, but we have good players. There are good players there.
"Beating Limerick was a huge achievement because I think Limerick are that good, and that was massive for us. I think the All-Ireland (final) would have been much closer without the sending-off, but I still don't think we would have beaten Tipp on the day."
The man at the centre of that red card incident, Richie Hogan, will be back.
"I'm sure people would say it changed the game. I looked at it at the time and it looked like there wasn't much in it, and when I looked at it on the television there was a connection.
"Was it meant? I would say absolutely not, but there was a connection and according to the rules that's the way it is.
"I've seen many tackles since and before that were similar and got yellow cards, but you have to go with what happened on the day. Richie was sent off, you've got to accept that and move on with it. Did it change the course of the game? It possibly did but did it change what the result would be? I don't think so.
"(But) Richie, I think, will be back and hungry to play. I think what he needs is a good run of not being injured."