Wednesday 21 November 2018

Leahy staying grounded as Cats sharpen claws for more

Richie Leahy at the launch of the Bord Gáis Energy U-21 All-Ireland Hurling Championship at Mitchelstown Caves. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Richie Leahy at the launch of the Bord Gáis Energy U-21 All-Ireland Hurling Championship at Mitchelstown Caves. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Humility is ingrained in the psyche of Kilkenny hurlers and when in conversation with one of the Cats, there is rarely any hint of a swelled head.

Whether it's Brian Cody's influence once they make the senior grade or something rooted much deeper, feet are kept firmly on the ground no matter what achievements are under their belts and Richie Leahy is no different.

One of the young guns which helped Kilkenny secure a league title against all odds, it's easy to notice that the all-action midfielder is full of life and a popular figure but once praise is passed his way, it's quickly deflected.

With last month's league final against Tipperary in the melting pot, Leahy belied his years to fire over a brilliant point from distance to widen their lead but he crafty ciotóg sees the score a little differently.

Mentality

"Well, I missed two easy ones before that so I was like, 'Jaysus I'm going to have to get one now', so I just kind of hit it and hoped that it went over. I needed one to go over or else I would have been taken off sooner," Leahy said at Bord Gáis Energy's U-21 All-Ireland Hurling Championship launch.

It's a simple example of the Kilkenny mentality and when expanding on the league success, it becomes obvious that all the talk of their demise throughout the early stages of the spring went over his head.

Having made his debut and impressed off the bench in their first Qualifier defeat to Waterford last year en route to an All-Ireland U-21 final appearance against Limerick, the bar was quickly raised. Playing was one thing but success is the only barometer on his radar.

"What else can you do, just go out and win the games, we're not going out to lose them. Last year was a good year but we didn't win anything that we wanted to win so in that sense it was a poor year as well," he said.

For anyone who was in Croke Park three years ago as the Rower-Inistioge clubman gave a tour de force to help the Cats claw their way to an extra-time All-Ireland minor semi-final draw with Galway, his ascension comes as no surprise.

Amazingly, he was whipped off with a quarter to play against the Treaty last September but that setback was quickly cast aside as he looks a certain senior starter for the upcoming Leinster SHC campaign.

Having just turned 21 last month, Leahy has only known one Kilkenny manager while growing up and getting the call from Cody, along with many of his U-21 colleagues, was a dream come true.

"It was unreal to get the call (last year) but I wasn't really thinking of it in that way, I was just thinking that I'll have to go in and hurl so if I look back on it now I suppose it's unreal that he's the manager," he said.

"There's a good few lads after moving up to the senior level from the U-21 last year, I'd be close friends with all those lads and we're all just enjoying hurling, you know that kind of way, we're not going in being nervous, we're actually going in and relishing it and enjoying it."

Already one of the favourites for Young Hurler of the Year, the IT Carlow student cannot wait for the new-look provincial campaign - which will see four games in five weeks - as the Cats open with a trip to Parnell Park to face Dublin on May 13.

"Sure that is the dream, you don't want to be training and waiting ages to play a game so being able to play all the games and show them what you're made of is the best thing ever."

Irish Independent

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