Kilkenny pleased with their ability to keep Tipperary at arm’s length
‘We always fought back when they drew close to us. We were always able to pick off scores and we even missed one or two into the bargain.’
Colin Fennelly lifts the cup after his side’s National League final victory over Tipperay. Photograph: Inpho
Mick Dempsey is the very personification of affability. If filling in for Brian Cody in the dressing room and on the sideline is a daunting task – and, in fairness, neither he nor Martin Fogarty have given any impression it is – the shrug and smile bit with the media afterwards comes handily to him.
He teases the dictaphone-wielders that Cody only stayed away from the game because he didn’t want to talk to the likes of us. We laugh along and reflect that if Mick isn’t careful, he might get lumbered with press-feeding duties even when Cody comes back.
There will be tougher days than this, obviously. Days when the questions are necessarily a bit more searching than inquiring just how good he thought his team were. But when Kilkenny go out and neuter an attack as fecund as Tipperary’s had been through the latter part of the league, it’s a fairly straightforward task for somebody in Dempsey’s position.
“We go out to win every match,” he said afterwards. “Obviously, there’s a bit of added pressure with Brian not being around and playing in Nowlan Park and playing Tipperary. So it’s great to win it, great to win a tight game.
“In ways we were probably edging the game for most of the 70 minutes. We missed some chances and were a little bit loose at times, probably let them in for a few scores that shouldn’t have been conceded. But when our backs were to the wall and Tipp were coming back into it, I thought our backs were great. It was a collective team effort, great work rate, great use of the ball. And despite the wides and the mistakes, it was just super effort for the 70 minutes.”
Kilkenny’s ability to keep Tipp at arm’s length all through the second half was particularly impressive. In the last 20 minutes of the match Eamon O’Shea’s side never once put scores back to back.
“We always fought back when they drew close to us. We were always able to pick off scores and we even missed one or two into the bargain. I felt we were on top most of the time but some days you will pay for those few misses. Tipp have been scoring a lot of goals this year and they made no secret of the fact that their play is designed to create scoring chances and to take goal chances. So we’re delighted today that our defence was able to keep them out.”
Like just about everyone else in the ground, Dempsey only saw the JJ Delaney-Lar Corbett dust-up when it was over. By that stage, Barry Kelly was racing towards them to break it up before giving them both the line on the advice of his umpires. In all likelihood, it will mean a one-match ban apiece.
“We have a very serious match in five weeks against Offaly and JJ will be a huge loss,” said Dempsey. “I thought he was majestic today. I didn’t see the incident but he’s a huge loss. He’s a fantastic player and we’ll just have to get on without him.”