Cillian Buckley: two early losses down to ‘training process’

Kilkenny captain believes possession has now become much more important

In the eight weeks between losing their opening two games and making the Allianz Hurling League final, there was something different inside the Kilkenny dressing room. In that there was nothing different at all.

No fear and certainly no self-doubt – and while other teams might have panicked or even surrendered, Kilkenny just kept on doing what they do. That was the only difference in the end.

"There wasn't any real notice given to it, being honest," says Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley, giving his thoughts on those early losses and the apparent doubts, including over their manager Brian Cody.

“Definitely any of those comments over the years, we try and stay away from. As regards the first two league games, we were in a training plan, a training process. And when that game was over of course you’re disappointed when you’re losing games, you want to win games, and you’re pissed off come the Tuesday night back in training, and that kind of thing doesn’t make training any easier, I suppose.


Uphill battle

“And realistically it wasn’t looking good after the first two games. It was an uphill battle from there, but definitely a challenge put down to us to get back into the business end of the league. And we did that with winning the last three league games and the quarter-final and semi-final, and have been building nicely.

“So, look, it’s great to be still involved in the business end of it in April. It gives us a taste of what’s to come later in the year for the new-format Leinster campaign.

"So, as regards worry, no. There was definitely just a training process in place, and definitely an improvement in that third league game against Waterford, which definitely gave us the confidence that we knew there was a performance there, there was a squad there, and we kind of built on it since."

It is Kilkenny first league final since 2014 – when they beat Tipperary – and the eleventh under Cody (eight wins, two defeats). Buckley admits there is a different style to Kilkenny's game, especially in moving the ball more directly out of defence.

Different formats

“I suppose we’ve had to try and adapt to the different formats and different formations that you’re coming up against on the field. It’s probably happened unknown to ourselves that we’re doing it, and we’re becoming more confident because of that.

“It hasn’t been a big thing in our training or anything like that, but it’s something that all teams are doing at this stage. Possession has become more important than ever.

“It used to be to get the ball as far away from your goal as possible and give your forwards the best chance to score, but I think possession has become more important than that, holding on to possession in your own half of the field.

“We are becoming better at it, but still need a lot to work on it. But we’re becoming more confident playing that kind of way.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics