Paul Murphy and Kilkenny remain determined to bounce back

Despite successive defeats champions still believe they can retain their league crown

Kilkenny’s Paul Mulrphy tackles Galway’s Jonathan Glynn at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Kilkenny’s Paul Mulrphy tackles Galway’s Jonathan Glynn at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The Kilkenny hurling team have become such a model of consistency that any time they suffer two defeats in a row eyebrows are raised.

But as the league and All-Ireland champions trooped off the field in Salthill after losing to Galway by two points on Sunday, they were hardly a picture of despair. They had come to the West missing key players throughout the lines and saw Galway press Joe Canning back into service for what was a competitive second half.

They even produced a couple of late goals chances to steal the game. It was a defeat but not the end of the world.

“No, it’s not,” says Paul Murphy. The Danesfort man had a busy afternoon in the Kilkenny back line, particularly after Canning’s arrival deepened Galway’s attack lines.

The gates

“We didn’t get blown out the gates or anything. Once you lose by ten or one point, it’s all the same. We didn’t get the points coming out of here so we’re disappointed but lads are fighting for jerseys at the moment. We’re probably not at 100 per cent yet but that’s not an excuse – we want to be winning these matches but Galway were just better on the day.”

 

This year’s league is, once more, exceptionally tight. As Brian Cody pointed out afterwards, Kilkenny lost two regular season games last year and went on to win the competition.

He has persisted in the belief that winning games is a good habit and has been key in ending the old notion of the league as meaningless. Kilkenny face a crucial game in Tipperary next week and won’t be forgetting that they have owned the spring competition for the last three seasons.

“We don’t look at it as four-in-a-row, we’re just looking to win the league. The league has been good to us over the last few years in terms of trying players and also setting us up for championship.

Completely different

“So we’re not looking at it as four-in-a-row because the team that played in the league final four years ago was completely different to now. So we’re literally looking at the moment at how well lads are going so we just want to get back to a league final. There’s no four-in-a-row in our heads, it’s just about winning it.”

 

The reputation for manufacturing wins from unlikely circumstances and for never quitting precedes Kilkenny now.

It makes them harder to kill off than most teams. Galway went 0-17 to 0-12 ahead against the Cats but struggled to dilute Richie Hogan’s insistence that he could shoot Kilkenny into a victory all by himself.

He had to depart with ten minutes remaining but Kilkenny continued to ask questions of their rivals and gave the Galway supporters a very nervous closing five minutes.

“Absolutely, we’ll take the positives as well but we’re not going to kill ourselves either, we’ll take the negatives and work on them,” Murphy says.

“ We created the chances but didn’t put them over so I mean you can create all the chances you want but if you’re not putting them over the bar or in the net, it doesn’t matter. So there were positives but we’ll look on the things we have to work on and work on them hard for the next while.”

Murphy moved from the corner to fullback after Michael Walsh’s early departure through injury – and the appearance of Jackie Tyrrell hardly weakened the overall balance of that line. But it advertised Murphy’s versatility in what will be a crucial championship position now that JJ Delaney has stepped down.

“I’ll take any jersey. If they want to put me in the goal, I’ll play in the goal,” he says.

“It was unfortunate that Michael Walsh had to go off injured because he started well, he looked bright and was aggressive going out for the ball.

“That’s what happens and you have to be able to adapt. Shane Pender (Prendergast) was in there at full-back for one or two parts because of how the game went. You have to be adaptable these days, have to be able to move around. I don’t mind if it’s full or corner, I’ll take it.”

In any case, the All-Ireland champions are still settling in for the season. Jackie Tyrrell’s resumption of his Kilkenny duties followed a brief adventure in Miami, where he took part in a documentary sampling life in major league baseball. It didn’t come without its fair share of comments in the dressing room.

Interesting thing

“Ah sure he’s got a fair bit of it at this stage. I suppose it’s an interesting thing, a new thing they’re after trying. It wouldn’t have happened ten years ago maybe but that’s the way the thing is at the moment. It’s a bit of publicity for the GAA. Jackie went off and did that, we focused on our game, and it’s great to have him back.”

 

Tipp are up next. They may well need him.

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