Wednesday 22 November 2017

Kilkenny teach Rebels a worrying lesson in how to 'do your job'

Brian Kennedy, Kilkenny, in action against Conor Lehane, Cork
Brian Kennedy, Kilkenny, in action against Conor Lehane, Cork

Ger Gilroy

It's hard not to fall into the trap of overvaluing the first few rounds of the league, particularly in hurling where summer's dry pitches and fitness can reveal massive gaps otherwise shrouded by the February air.

The trouble comes when you see teams repeat old patterns. Who knows what Clare, Galway, Tipp and Dublin really mean with last weekend's performances?

The other game at Pairc Ui Rinn seemed different. Kilkenny are still Kilkenny and Cork, unfortunately for them, haven't changed much either. The Cats were playing their first competitive game of the year. No pre-season tournament to clean the pipes, no Ballyhale crew, neither of the Power brothers and obviously none of the retirees.

Cork named basically their first team. At home. They were, we were told, ready for the fight. Kilkenny only won by two on the scoreboard but were vastly superior in all the things that decide who wins a game. They won the workrate, attitude, application and tactical battles.

Cork looked like a team of magnificent individuals, hurling off the cuff and scoring from impossible angles. Slowly Kilkenny's percentage game drowned Cork in the deep water of probability. It's unlikely you'll score amazing scores all the time.

For Cork, the defeat matters because it mirrored so much of last year's All-Ireland semi-final. They again failed to get their better players on the ball in any space, whereas Kilkenny subbed in some late bloomers and squad members and hurled to their plan anyway.

It worked again and again. They are a testament to intelligent design. Everyone knows their role.

Rewatching the America's Games of the Patriots' various Super Bowl victories recently, all the footage on game day comes down to a very simple motto Bill Belichick repeats ad nauseam: "Do your job."

It works when everyone knows their job. It works when the culture demands that everyone prepare brilliantly. It might just sustain Kilkenny this year that they have so many people capable of slotting in and doing their jobs. Cork need some of that.

Irish Independent

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