Something, struck me the other day when I was listening to Paul Murphy. The Danesfort man was asked if the level of training was still the same since the mass exodus of players during the winter. To, I presume, most of the journalists surprise, Murphy admitted that initially it was difficult to get training to the level of intensity that has become synonymous with Kilkenny’s success over the years. He did say that once championship rolls around, it is time to get to work. Newcomers to the set-up, this year more than ever, have a chance to kick-start their senior careers earlier, rather than serving a long apprenticeship. Players such as Kieran Joyce know this set-up better than anyone, having bided his time as an extended panel member and taking the opportunity when presented to him.
Teams have a life-cycle, even successful ones, The players that departed the scene in 2014, were all over the 30 mark. As a result of that, the average age is dropped, and it is back to square one, Fringe players that might not have gotten a look in are now the front runners to take over from the household names. If your surname is Tyrell, Power, Fennelly or Larkin, you are now no longer certain to keep your jersey from the Jj Farrells, Mark Kelly’s and Joe Lyngs of this world. That is the way it has always been with Cody, no one player is bigger than the whole team.
Even last year, there was a sense that the senior team was going through a revolution of sorts, while the bench still boasted 48 All Ireland medals, the fact that the likes of Tommy Walsh and Brian Hogan had been handed a secondary role was significant, it highlighted that Cody was looking to the future, instead of dwelling on the past. Take the half back line for example, did anyone envision that Kilkenny would win an All Ireland without the trio of Walsh, Hogan and Delaney. (Granted Tommy’s brother Padraig now operates in the number 5 jersey, so you could not say the defence is devoid of Tullaroan representation!)
There seems to be a trend throughout Cody’s reign, where he uses the League campaign, not just to get a momentum going, but to blood in a few new players. Both in 2014, and in 2015, this philosophy has been further cemented. Especially this year, where not only did Kilkenny have to deal with recent departures, but also an injury list that housed some very influential players, some of which are still struggling. While it was always going to be tough, however, it was also an excellent opportunity for the management to look at different players, and test them in difficult situations. Some of which worked out, some did not. Kilkenny ultimately retained their division 1A status and found out a lot about themselves in the process.
Anytime. you attempt to rebuild a team, there is a process. Cody was faced with similar challenges throughout his time with Kilkenny, the biggest being 2006, and we all know what happened after that. That time of transition may short or it may be long, so supporters must be patient. Kilkenny are faced with having to rebuild a new team but the philosophy is still the same as it was in 2006.