Lyng: We have no divine right to be in All-Irelands
Derek Lyng is aware of the perception that is out there surrounding Kilkenny as they head into the new year.
If people are of a mind that Kilkenny are in transition then he can understand that. After all, over the last few seasons, they have lost some of the biggest names to play the game.
And this winter, their panel has been chipped away at further. Michael Fennelly was the latest to retire, joining Shane Prendergast and Kieran Joyce on the sidelines. Jonjo Farrell has also left the squad while Colin Fennelly and Paul Murphy will miss all of the league due to peacekeeping duty. It all means there are plenty of places up for grabs when the Cats start their 2018 season against Laois in the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup this evening (7.0).
Still, he insists it shouldn't be taken as read that the Cats won't be competitive in 2018.
"The perception would be that we are in transition," Lyng reflected last month. "But again, in 2013, Cork beat us, I think that was July as well, All-Ireland quarter-final, and the following year we came back strongly.
"That's not to say we're going to win the All-Ireland, I'm certainly not saying that. But I think we have enough confidence in the players we have that we can maximise their potential and that we can do something and be a challenge for everybody else. That's certainly the approach we're taking. No effort will be spared."
Having been top cats for so long, Kilkenny are back in the pack chasing a Galway side who have been installed as favourites to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2018.
And Lyng believes there are more teams around the same level now than at any time in the recent past.
"There are certainly a lot more (competitive teams) around now as well. And a lot of those teams have had strong underage success. We probably haven't been as successful at U-21 level as we would have liked over the last 10 years.
"This year, we got to the final, would have been disappointed to lose. So yeah, like I said, it's very rare where two or three teams are at the top for a lengthy period of time. Eventually other teams catch up and that's certainly happened now.
"That's the challenge and we have to get on with it. It's good for the game, more teams involved and I think it's a championship that everyone is looking forward to."
"We didn't perform to the levels that we'd expected in Kilkenny last year, definitely not. That's, as I said, that's just the nature of it. It's very competitive. If you look at the championship last year, it was massively competitive. You have Clare, Cork, Tipperary, Galway, Dublin, Limerick are U-21 champions now and of course Wexford.
"So everybody will fancy beating each other now, that's the way it is. Your preparation has to be spot on. You need a bit of luck with injuries. It's a challenge but really looking forward to it."
And despite enduring an unfamiliarly short summer in 2017, Lyng is hoping Kilkenny can bounce back.
"We played Waterford, it was a great game, I think the players did really well to come back in normal time, showed great resilience to do that. Into extra-time then and Waterford showed that they were the better team on the day. They certainly were and they nearly went on and won the All-Ireland after that. It was disappointing to be out so early, something we haven't been used to over the last few years but that's the way it is, that's sport.
"We've no divine right to be in All-Ireland finals, semi-finals, every year. You have to earn that right and we just didn't do it."
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