If Ger Loughnane is to be believed, then Kilkenny wouldn't be winning anything these days without TJ Reid – although the player himself disagrees with such a notion.
"Totally dependent on TJ Reid, one forward," Loughnane said recently. "And maybe Richie Hogan as well."
Now, speaking ahead of Sunday's league semi-final against Clare, Loughnane's native county, Reid is politely dismissive and then bluntly honest; nothing Loughnane or anyone else say bothers them in the slightest, least of all Kilkenny manager Brian Cody.
“We didn’t react to that at all, to be honest,” says Reid. “We don’t sit down and bring up what people say. Ger Loughnane is trying to sell newspapers and trying to get people to read papers so he’s entitled to his opinion. That’s his job.
“The last two years we’ve won the All-Ireland fair and square. We beat Galway and we beat Tipperary, so I don’t see why he was saying that. We’re probably the hardest-working team out there, and every time we hit that field our honesty and our work-rate is always 100 per cent.
“We mightn’t have those legendary names out there but that’s not our fault. We’re competing at our best and it’s up to the rest of the counties to try and match us . . . We’re probably the most honest group of hurling players out there.”
So it won’t be providing any extra motivation for Sunday, even as they go up against Clare opposition?
“I’ll leave Brian Cody to motivate us,” he says. “There certainly won’t be any pictures going up on the walls saying ‘Ger Loughnane this and Ger Loughnane that’. But look, he’s entitled to his opinions, like anyone else. . .”
Reid is Kilkenny’s in-form forward. He missed their 6-20 to 0-14 win over Offaly in the quarter-final but has scored 1-54 from their previous five league games. They may have beaten Clare in both league games last season (including the Division One A relegation playoff), although Reid says there is a certain novelty about their rivalry right now.
"We haven't come across them too much over the last number of years. But they're looking impressive at the moment. I saw them against Tipperary in their quarter-final and they looked very fit and very strong and they're moving the ball very well. They have Donal Óg [Cusack] involved now with Davy Fitz, so they're going to be going 100 per cent on Sunday."
There is also the sense their recent rivalry is building towards a major championship clash, given Clare won their All-Ireland in 2013 without actually beating Kilkenny (as they lost to Cork in that year’s quarter-final). Clare haven’t reached a league final since 2005, when they lost to Kilkenny, and Reid leaves little doubt that neither side lack motivation for Sunday’s game.
“Going back to 2013, things didn’t work out for us. Injuries came and it didn’t work out so you’ll have a year like that, that things don’t flow for you. But Clare wasn’t the motivation in 2014. The motivation was to win the All-Ireland. If Clare came our way, of course the motivation is to beat Clare but Clare didn’t come our way so we don’t think about them. Just because they won the year before, that doesn’t give you the motivation to win the All-Ireland. You motivate yourself because you want to get to the first week of September to win the All-Ireland.”
Back to Loughnane’s comments, because Reid also wants to make it clear that he’s worked hard for every bit of success he’s got with Kilkenny, whether they’re dependent on him or not, and that’s he’s still a considerable distance short of the likes of
"Look, it didn't happen for me overnight. I was up against great players. I was only 18 starting off. Back then we were on the rollercoaster, winning All-Irelands. When you're competing against Henry Shefflin and Eoin Larkin, Martin Comerford, Derek Lyng, Richie Power, Michael Rice, it was a hard team to break into. I'll put my hands up and say that.
“But that’s what you need. You need competition there to keep everything fresh and keep everyone on their toes. Okay, the All-Irelands are there alright. I have seven. I have a few more years, hopefully. I’m 28 and I’ll go for as long as my body can push me. Jackie has nine, he’s going for 10. But none of that comes into the dressing room.” Just like Ger Loughnane’s comments then.