Saturday 22 September 2018

Keeping Reid fit the key for Cats, says Joyce

Kieran Joyce is happy that he chose the right decision to retire. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Kieran Joyce is happy that he chose the right decision to retire. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Kieran Joyce sits before the assembled media like a man happy with his place in the world.

Over the winter, he called time on his career with Kilkenny. The writing was on the wall in some ways. He played against Wexford in the Leinster Championship but didn't feature after that.

Even when they brought Waterford to extra-time in the qualifiers, Brian Cody's eyes wandered elsewhere when he looked to his bench to make changes.

Joyce was still just 30, but leaving Semple Stadium that day, he knew his time was up.

"I met Brian - I think it was October last year. I sat down with him and we spoke," explained Joyce.

"Like, I didn't feature after the Wexford match last year. If a sub got injured, I wasn't even the first man to come on.

"I said to myself, usually if I wasn't starting, I was the first one to come in, or the first one covering for the backs.

"So I said to him, 'Obviously I'm not featuring and I'm not the first man to come in either. Is the belief and the confidence still there in me?'

"He said, 'It is, but we're looking at other people now so I can't say that this isn't going to be the case going forward'.

"I said, 'Look, if that is the case, it's a big sacrifice'. I didn't want to be there for the sake of being there either. I didn't want to be holding up the position for other players trying to come in."

It might have set other men back. Many who depart the inter-county scene talk of the struggle they have to fill the gap but Joyce's experience has been different.

On the morning he was to meet Cody, the wheel of life had already taken a big spin as he found out his partner was pregnant.

"It's gas, the day I met Brian I actually found out that day that we were expecting a child, that my partner is expecting. It's funny how life flows.

"I knew obviously in the back of my mind that I was so disappointed with Kilkenny, for a week or two.

"Then I had to say to myself, 'Get over it'. Because obviously the next part is happening then. But look, I still have the club, it's not a case that I've completely fallen away from hurling altogether."

Joyce's brother Darragh is currently signed up with AFL outfit St Kilda while another brother, Conor, lines out with the Kilkenny footballers.

"Darragh is playing in the VFL, the league underneath the AFL with St Kilda. St Kilda are not going too well at the moment, I think they've lost five on the bounce, so he has a chance. He thinks he might get a chance to start for the seniors this year. It would be great; by all accounts all is good and they're very happy with him.

"His two-year contract is up now so this year he'll either... well, he's fairly confident he'll get another contract, a two- or three-year contract, he knows himself he'll have to make the team in the next two or three years and if not, then he'll...

"I always said to him that if he wanted to come home and hurl for Kilkenny, he'd still be only 24 or 25. He still has a chance to do that if he wanted to but obviously he's trying to make the most out of the life he has out there at the moment."

And while he has walked away, Joyce believes Kilkenny will be in the shake-up for All-Ireland honours come August.

"If we can keep TJ (Reid) injury-free for a year, if we got the likes of Richie Hogan back in, I do think we could be All-Ireland contenders. It obviously is very dependent on that.

"Obviously Wally (Walter Walsh) as well, there's a couple of key players there, if we lose them it will be a tough season.

"I do think, look, the spine of the team are starting to show, from Brian's point of view he's after finding a few players in the league, Martin Keoghan and those lads have shown up well.

"He does have options there whereas probably in previous years he didn't. He took a risk there and started a few lads that maybe historically in games previously he wouldn't. I do think probably Galway have the strongest panel of the championship, after that maybe Tipp when they get everyone back."

The Kilkenny door is closed but the Rower Inistioge clubman has designs on one more big day out before he hangs up his hurl for good.

"I still train twice or three nights a week with the club, so that keeps you ticking over, keeps you interested. I'd be hoping to maybe get some success with the club in the last closing years.

"There's a couple of lads coming in so that would be a great way to finish off, winning a county final. That would be the challenge."

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