Paul Murphy: 'We stood up and made our own mark'
Like most things in Kilkenny hurling, it remained unspoken but the motivation was always there, with Paul Murphy and the new brigade eager to prove that they could reach the summit by themselves.
A string of high-profile retirements in winter 2014 was expected to open the door for another name on Liam MacCarthy come September, but it never materialised and the Cats are now chasing another three in a row.
Such is the mentality on Noreside, it was seen as a challenge of their capabilities and Murphy (right) took great inspiration from proving popular opinion wrong, with those retired warriors leaving the perfect blueprint to follow.
"We had All-Irelands in our right and we wanted to say that it wasn't just on the back of those players that went before us that we had that success," the Danesfort corner-back said. "And it was huge motivation.
"Despite the lads retiring, we were able to stand up and say that we are still good enough to win the All-Ireland.
"But this year is a new year and you look for new motivation, you can't keep going to the same well over and over again."
For the last five years Murphy has donned the black and amber, winning four Celtic Crosses and a quartet of All-Stars, with 2013 the only blip on an exemplary record. With such success, does complacency register? Hardly.
"Lads say 'you have a few All-Irelands now, would you not be happy?' - well each year has it's own motivation. From my own point of view, it is looking at the lads that went before us," he said.
"For the past few years, I have been sharing dressing-rooms with lads with seven, eight or nine All-Ireland medals and I am there with two or three (he actually has four) - you are saying to yourself, 'who am I to be complacent?'
"You see Jackie (Tyrrell) there with nine All-Irelands and he is like a dog when it comes to training. He is the first lad out to do the runs and the last guy off the pitch, so if he's doing that, who am I to be complacent?
"And Brian (Cody) wouldn't have that, he just wouldn't tolerate it. We all row around that. If you see one lad getting complacent, you just have a small word but thankfully, we haven't had to do that. It's a team thing. You make sure the lad beside you is working as hard as you - it's as simple as that."
Cody empowers his players to problem-solve between the white lines and they revel in the responsibility with Murphy happy to make "the hard decisions on the pitch", following the lead shown by the 11-time All-Ireland winning manager.
After flirting with relegation last spring, the teak-tough defender wants to win this year's League, which begins with a trip to Waterford on Sunday, and believes its competitiveness is increasing every year, with more of a resemblance to Championship hurling.
"We couldn't hope for a better start, That is as far as we're looking because if you looked past it, you could find yourself in relegation trouble again," the 27-year-old said.
"Each year that goes on, players are hitting the ground running when it comes to the League and it's just getting more intense. Ten years ago, the League just wasn't as intense as it is now.
"You see the two League semi-finals in Nowlan Park last year and the intensity was huge. It's upping and upping each year and players are getting fitter and more players competing for jerseys."
And competition is huge in Kilkenny, where limitless motivation leaves no sign of the juggernaut coming to a halt.
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