Delaney looking forward to Kilkenny hosting the old enemy on home soil
Tipperary’s visit for league final at Nowlan Park sure to energise the home faithful
Tipperary’s Brendan Maher and Kilkenny’s JJ Delaney at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
It says a lot about their state of mind and play that JJ Delaney needs reminding of how many hurling league medals he’s already won with Kilkenny going into Sunday’s final against Tipperary at Nowlan Park.
“Well I’ve a few, anyway,” says Delaney – before being informed he’s actually won six. “It’s not that I don’t just count the league. I couldn’t tell you how many All-Irelands (seven) or Leinster medals (10!) I have either. I just look forward to the next game. It’s when you retire, look back, that’s when you count them. You can’t afford to look back now.”
Delaney is excited about Sunday’s final, looking forward to welcoming old rivals Tipperary to Kilkenny: it’s the first time since 1966 that the league final will be played in Nowlan Park, and only the fourth time in all.
“Of course, you always want to win in your back yard. But at the start of the year it was about making the final, and it’s great to be there now, especially against Tipp, the old enemy, the winners then having the bragging rights for a few months coming up.”
Much has been made already of the incentive Kilkenny have to win this league title for manager Brian Cody, as he’s still recovering from minor cardiac surgery carried out last month. While Delaney plays down the significance of his absence, he doesn’t fully disguise the uncertainty of when exactly Cody might resume his duties.
“We just heard the operation went well, that’s it, and we’re presuming he’s okay, recovering well. But Martin Fogarty and Mick Dempsey have taken over the ship, running the whole thing . . . .
“But the motivation is always there. Younger lads like Lester Ryan, Conor Fogarty, they’re getting their opportunity. They won’t need any extra motivation. They’re there to stake their claim for the championship, put pressure on the few lads that are coming back. At the end of the day championship is where you want to start, and this is perfect preparation for the Offaly game.
“We expect Brian will just burst in the door in a couple of weeks, and you’ll realise it’s just back to business as usual. He wouldn’t be the sort of man to tell us. He’s just taking himself out, getting himself right, and when he comes back he’ll be back full tilt . . . he has to get his health right. That’s the only consideration.
“He’ll make that decision and whatever decision he makes we will respect it. But I’m not going to put a time line on Brian Cody coming back or not. But it is different. When you’re on the field you’re looking over at him. It’s the game days that he takes over. That’s his baby more than anything.”
Delaney has taken to his full back role with aplomb.
“The first thing you have to do is stop your man really. If your man gets the ball and turns you he’s straight in on goal. That’s your number one thing. Nine times out of 10 you’re under pressure and you just want to get it out of the danger area, that’s all you’re trying to do. You’re never going to master any particular position, you’re just trying to get as comfortable as you can.”
Kilkenny won’t be at full strength: Richie Power is now doubtful with a rib injury, Michael Rice and Michael Fennelly are still easing their way back, while Henry Shefflin remains an absentee for now.
“A lesser man would have said, ‘Ah, it’s not worth it. Let’s get out at the top’. But he’s busting himself to get back in playing again. He’ll be back at some stage of the championship . . . . Henry won’t leave any stone unturned in trying to get back.”