Sunday's events were the final straw for Brennan

 

Nicky Brennan, who resigned as Kilkenny hurling manager together with his selectors Pat Aylward and Richie Power at the weekend, after an unexpected and emphatic defeat by an under-strength Limerick, says Kilkenny must learn from the rise of hurling in Clare and Wexford.

"I should say at the outset that the focus shouldn't be on just one individual," he says. "It was a three-man decision. If they (his selectors) had wanted to stay on, I would have abided by that.

"We felt we weren't getting it out of the players and there had been to an extent a breakdown in discipline. It was obvious that things weren't quite clicking. The standards have been set down by Wexford and Clare and that's the type of sacrifice and commitment needed now to succeed, and it was lacking."

"There's an awful lot of other players who should examine their conscience. If I had taken strict disciplinary action, I don't know what the reaction would have been in the county, but if I had known how things were going to end I might have taken that action earlier.

"I told the players on Sunday that I would not be discussing any individual in public after I stepped down. I respect the hard work that was done since October and I'm not going to abuse the relationship I had with the panel, but the point has to be made that Clare and Wexford have set the standards we have to emulate.

"Sunday was an embarrassment. The league's the second national competition and the match was a chance to rise themselves. We only trained for it for one night and only 13 turned out. The session was very light and there was no pressure. I brought them in 90 minutes before the match started and knew then we'd be in trouble. Credit to Limerick. Although they had a hell of a lot of replacements playing, they took their chance to perform. But for ourselves, it had clearly gone too far."

Defeat by Limerick was the final straw for Brennan who, as well as feeling that he'd reached the end of the road with the team, was deeply angered by the barracking of his younger brother Canice who was playing and the cheer that greeted his substitution.

"You can exaggerate the reaction of the crowd. I've been putting up with this on an ongoing basis and you get it everywhere, so I wasn't too bothered by what was directed at me.

"But my mother was sitting in the same stand as these people on Sunday and I was furious about that. She's supported us all throughout our careers and the contribution of my family to Kilkenny hurling has been unreal.

"It was just after half-time and we took the field before Limerick. I was asked what were the changes and I said `Brian McEvoy for Canice Brennan'. When this was announced, a cheer went up and it was like a knife through the heart. I don't know what effect it had on the Kilkenny players but our performance dived in the second half.

"It was symptomatic of what has been happening and at least in the new scenario - and I'm not saying that a new management team would definitely pick him - Canice won't have to worry about that relationship with the county manager."

Brennan had already denounced sections of the Kilkenny support as "scum" after last winter's victory in the South-East League. He believes that his comment was widely misunderstood as personal touchiness.

"My concern last December was - and I'm not saying I was wrong but I didn't approach it in the right way - nothing to do with myself, I couldn't care less about myself, but I was worried about the younger players who were getting abuse. They needed to be brought on, not abused by supporters."

There had been criticism of Brennan's management within the county and among the grounds for it was how long the management took to find their best team and despite the advantages of the calendar-year league, Kilkenny were still experimenting when the championship arrived. He concedes that some things could have been done differently.

"There's always games where you would have picked certain people with the benefit of hindsight. Small things maybe, but they all add up. Over two years, I feel we had no lucky breaks with injuries etc but I acknowledge that it's not all down to breaks.

"We were in a quandary in a few positions. There were problems making up our mind on a goalkeeper. We had difficulties in the centre of the defence. I also envisaged John Power fit and well playing at centre forward but it became apparent that because of illness, he hadn't the strength to play there.

"We did bring a number of new players to the forefront though, and I'm not pessimistic about the future of Kilkenny hurling but certain players need to get a bit more professional about their approach. We needed to show some of Tipp's drive and commitment after losing the provincial final."

While admitting there was a sense of relief in stepping down, Brennan departs with a sense of achievement: "I also think we should take credit for the fine season because it takes beaten teams to play a role in great games."