Saturday 24 March 2018

Tribesmen have yet to get out of third gear - Power

The portrait of former Kilkenny star Richie Power was captured by renowned photographer Alex Sapienza in South William Studios. Alex is known for his portrait photography in which he uses a camera that is 365 years old which gives the shots a unique look
The portrait of former Kilkenny star Richie Power was captured by renowned photographer Alex Sapienza in South William Studios. Alex is known for his portrait photography in which he uses a camera that is 365 years old which gives the shots a unique look
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

"They had our heads under the water," Kilkenny hero Richie Power says, recalling the 2012 and 2015 All-Ireland finals with Galway.

"But they let us get back up for air. They gave us that squeak."

No-one needs reminding what happened from there. Kilkenny recovered and Galway's wait for another Liam MacCarthy continues. And with that memory, Power has likely verbalised the silent fears of Galway supporters heading to Croke Park on Sunday.

Micheál Donoghue's men are talented and powerful but Galway teams generally don't lack in either department. But for Power, they need to find a ruthless streak.

He's impressed with what they have seen so far. Galway are league and Leinster champions but Power offers a couple of caveats. He reckons the Tipp camp wasn't a happy one when the sides met in the league final while he also points out that they were on the softer side of the Leinster draw.

Galway, he says, haven't been out of third gear and he's certain that will change this weekend.

"For me there was something missing in that Galway team (of 2012 and 2015). Now maybe they have found it this year. But in those games they just needed leaders to take the game by the scruff of the neck and there'll be real questions asked of their leaders on Sunday."


Tipp are coming along nicely, he reckons. They haven't needed to bridge the gap Galway did - the Tribesmen have been idle now for five weeks.

"I was talking to a Cork man before the Cork-Tipp game in the championship and I said to him that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for whoever lost that game. Like Tipp have come to the All-Ireland semi-final through much easier route than Cork have and I think they are fresh.

"I did think Cathal Barrett would be back in the team. I am very surprised at that and think it's a bad move when you see how the Tipperary full-back line is struggling.

"I think they'll have to go back to having James Barry at full-back because it's not working at corner-back.

"That's the area of the pitch where the game will be won and lost. Galway's match- winners are in there and if the Tipperary full-back line can get back to where they were in last year's All-Ireland final then they'll be OK.

"Galway have been in third gear so far. Now they definitely have a fourth and fifth gear. And maybe they have found that ruthless streak this year. I think they'll get themselves in the position to win this game. From there it'll just be a question as to whether they can see it out.

"But I just think Tipp are in a good place coming into this one."

And while Galway and Tipp will go to war in Croke Park on Sunday, Power remains locked in his own personal battle with his knee.

At just 31, the eight-time All-Ireland winner is looking at a knee replacement sooner rather than later but a recent trip to Croatia was aimed at postponing that for as long as possible. Last month, he headed off to Zagreb to see if the latest in stem cell research could help.

"To be honest the trip didn't go as well as I was hoping, even though I wasn't going with great expectations.

"There's still a possibility the stem cell treatment could work but they have to see if I'm a candidate for it. They'll do a few more scans and tests here and send them back to Croatia to see if it would work for me. Your knees have to be aligned a certain way for it to be a success so we'll just have to wait and see if that is an option."

Power's struggles with his left knee has seen him undergo an incredible eight different operations before he packed in his days with Kilkenny. Back in February he got himself back to a place where he could start for Carrickshock in the All-Ireland club IHC final. He landed six points as they cruised to the title on their way back to senior hurling in Kilkenny.

It doesn't sound like much but to give that achievement some context, Power hasn't been able to hurl since. In fact, he hasn't been able to so much as run since playing that final.

"I haven't played since, I haven't even tried to run on it," he explained. "I'm just in the gym doing what I can there. There's probably a 10pc chance I might try and play at the end of the year and maybe I'll get 15 or 20 minutes out of it but it doesn't feel as good as it felt last year. The impact off the hard ground really gets at it so maybe when it starts to soften in September I could go again."

He'd be lying if a few questions don't rattle around his head about whether something could have been spotted earlier in his injury to stop it coming to this. If, at some stage, something was missed or if he made a few different calls.

"There's no point in sugar-coating it. You do wonder why it got so bad and that with three operations in eight months could something have been spotted? But look it is what it is, those questions are probably never going to be answered."

Power was forced out of inter-county hurling at just 29. Were he still available two years later, it's not hard to imagine how central he'd be as Kilkenny look to rebuild on the hoof. Still, Power expects them to be competitive sooner rather than later.

"It was always going to be a tough year with Eoin Larkin and Jackie Tyrrell leaving the dressing room. That was yet more experience gone from them. But if you look at the Waterford game, I think if it had to have gone on five minutes longer in normal time they'd have beaten them and then you could be talking about them in an All-Ireland semi-final and these questions wouldn't be asked.

"I think Brian will bring in some new faces next year and no better man to do it. There's no reason Kilkenny won't be back competing at the top in the next year or two."

• Richie Power is a Bord Gáis Energy #HurlingToTheCore ambassador - proud sponsors of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Championship

Irish Independent

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