Endeavour and attitude the key to Kilkenny performance

Brian Cody thrilled as tireless defensive display sees his side through to All-Ireland hurling final

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and Jackie Tyrell celebrate at the end of the All-Ireland hurling semi-final at  Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and Jackie Tyrell celebrate at the end of the All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Inpho

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 01:00

When the final whistle went, you had to scan the whole of the sideline to find Brian Cody. He was right down at the 13-metre line, taking a worm’s-eye view as his defence kept the Barbarians from the gate. Roaring, pointing, orchestrating. Being Brian Cody.

For those final 10 minutes, his team only gave up a single point. And even then, Shane Dowling had to conjure up a one-in-10 shot from the left sideline to move the scoreboard. Kilkenny ran down every Limerick swing like they were stopping air leaking out of a balloon. No better way to please their manager than that.

“It was excellent defending,” Cody said afterwards. “Hooking and blocking and closing down, non-stop backing each other up. And Limerick showed all those things as well, so it was a question of two genuine teams competing absolutely in a terrific spirit for every ball. It’s a tough one for them to lose and a great one for us to win.

“Without a doubt if we had not been very, very good today we would have been blown away. We had to play outstandingly well to come through the game. There are different ways to play outstandingly well – it’s not all about doing something wonderful or playing flowing hurling, which the conditions weren’t conducive to. We were a real team out there today, which is a good thing to be.”

From the time that Cody sent Henry Shefflin and Richie Power into the game, Kilkenny outscored Limerick by 1-2 to 0-1. It was a quarter hour of eyeballs-out endeavour, of first to the ball and if not first then second with attitude.

Truckload

For a team with a truckload of All-Irelands tucked away, there was no lack of appetite for the battle. Not that there was ever going to be.

“No, because that’s what you do,” said Cody. “If you start thinking about something you won before, what good is that to you today, or this year? Our previous victories mean nothing right now if we had to leave here today beaten.

“The fact that we might have won at other times wouldn’t be any good to me or to the lads either. It would be just sheer, absolute devastation when you lose a game like that, and that’s what Limerick are experiencing. We didn’t want to experience that.”

TJ Ryan wouldn’t argue on that score. Limerick had the measure of Kilkenny, they just didn’t have the beating of them when it mattered. Twice in the game they got on a roll and twice Kilkenny sniped goals to slow them up. They weren’t able to match them, a Shane Dowling flick in the first half as close as they came.

“Extremely disappointed obviously,” said Ryan afterwards. “I’ve come from an exceptionally disappointed dressing room. Not much more you can say. Just extremely disappointed.”

How far were you away?

“Two points! Ah, it’s hard to know. From our point of view, I thought we performed really well in the second-half. When we got those five points in a row, they got a good goal to get them back into the game. You probably have to give them credit for that, they’re an incredible team.

“You can say they got two goals and we didn’t get any, the same as the Munster final. Goals win matches. We probably had a couple of half chances, needed a break or two but it didn’t happen. But it was close.”

Torture on the sideline

If the endgame was gripping for us to watch, it was torture on the Limerick sideline. They had enough possession but couldn’t find enough space. Every time they thought they had room to shoot, a flailing Kilkenny body got in the way. The full-back in Ryan could only admire their gumption.

“You have to give credit to Kilkenny for that. They got the hooks and the blocks in, they put the pressure on, but it was a difficult day for hurling. The rain was unbelievable. You’d have to credit huge effort on both sides. From our point of view, we gave it everything. We needed a couple of things to go our way.

“We needed one or two balls to go over the bar at the end to get something out of it. We wanted to win, we came to win but we didn’t.”

That Dowling flick was saved by David Herity in the 26th minute at a time when Limerick were 0-8 to 0-6 ahead. Had it gone in, a five-point lead would have been something to work with. Instead it was Richie Hogan that got a goal before half-time, undoing much of the good work Limerick had logged.

Very close

“That was huge,” said Ryan. “If we’d got a goal it would have done us. But, look, that’s hurling and the competition is very tight. There isn’t a lot between a few of the teams. We felt we deserved to be in the last four and our goal was to get to the last two. We came very, very close to doing that.

“In time we might say that we have stuff to build on, but at the moment that seems like a long, long time away.

“I wouldn’t ever be surprised by anything that Kilkenny do. They’re not going for 10 titles for no reason. What they have done is incredible and what they do every single day is incredible.

“Maybe there might have been a few question marks about them this year but they responded in every single way. They’re league champions, they won Leinster and they’re back in an All-Ireland final. What more can you say?”

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