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Cool Tyrrell a touch of class

A GREY Friday morning, nine days before the All-Ireland SHC semi-final, and Jackie Tyrrell is attending to business in Wexford.

The Kilkenny star has been working with Glanbia for a year and a half and the fit is a snug one with the county team sponsors.

"To be honest, it’s grand," he smiles. "The job works hand in hand with the hurling. They’re very decent with time off or if you have to finish early or start early. It’s good to be able to juggle things around with gym and physio."

In a typical eight-hour day, Tyrrell might spend three or four hours in the car, covering his Wexford/Carlow/Kilkenny patch.

He admits that it took a bit of adjusting to mentally and for a player who has suffered with hamstring injuries before, the last thing he needs are stiff muscles.

But Tyrrell and his Kilkenny team-mates are professional in all but name – ensuring they’re properly hydrated, hitting the gym between training, strength-ening weak areas of the body, getting rubs from physios, stretching at home.

It’s all part of the routine – a winning routine which has seen the Cats hoover up the last four All-Ireland titles and potentially 140 minutes away from creating history by landing five-in-a-row.

There’s a touch of class about Tyrrell and off the field.

With typical courtesy, he responds almost immediately via text message to confirm the interview request.

"Yeah no bother. If ya ring now, I’m just on the road for the next 20 minutes."

The conversation runs for longer and covers a variety of topics, from Tyrrell’s Fitzgibbon Cup days to Donal Óg Cusack’s book, which elicits a smile from the James Stephens star.

Tyrrell studied quantity surveying at Limerick IT, having first attended Cork IT, before "the arse fell out of that".

Tyrrell reflects: "I worked for the bones of a year or two and then things got very quiet. There were talks of cutbacks and I went looking for another job. I was blessed because if I had left it another couple of months, I would have struggled. But an opening came up and I went for it."

For a top inter-county star, having to move abroad is the nuclear option and unfortunately, more and more players have been forced to press the button.

"It is the dreaded scenario – and a lot of clubs are finding that with lads in trades," says the versatile defender.

"I’m very fortunate to have a job in Ireland, and in the South East. If I had to travel long distances to training, it just wouldn’t work. I’d find it hard driving there two or three hours, training and back again. I just couldn’t do it."

Talk turns to college days and the craic with the likes of Cork captain Kieran ‘Fraggie’ Murphy at LIT.

The pair lived together and won Fitzgibbon Cups in 2005 and 2007 as Davy Fitzgerald oversaw a revolution.

Tyrrell says: "It was very important looking back at it. Coming from Fitzgibbon, you’d be fitter than lads back training in January with the county. From that point of view, it was very helpful. It was also great development playing with lads from other counties and those Fitzgibbon weekends were tough going.

"It brought me on an awful lot, the experience of it. We won it two years and that gives you the confidence to carry into Kilkenny. Some lads buy into it, some don’t but I can’t speak highly enough of the Fitzgibbon."

Fitzgerald’s training methods ensured there was no room for slackers and those not mentally strong enough were weeded out.

Tyrrell smiles: "We were up to all sorts – training at six in the morning and other times three times a day. Davy’s very big into team bonding, spirit and building morale in the camp. You can see his imprint on Waterford. Every manager has different ways but his are very successful and everyone bought into the Davy mentality. That’s why we won but we had a very strong team. The second year we won it, we had 14 inter-county hurlers."

Tyrrell played alongside Galway quartet Joe Canning, Niall Healy, Aonghus Callanan and James Skehill with LIT.

Tipp pair Shane McGrath and Conor O’Mahony also cut their teeth there, as well as players of the calibre of Fraggie and Clare’s Jonathan Clancy. Tyrrell’s Fitzgibbon days helped to steel him for inter-county fare and Kilkenny boss Brian Cody, a clubmate, was keeping a close eye on third-level fare.

"I was in a Fitzgibbon one year with Cork IT. WIT beat us – JJ (Delaney) and these lads. I remember he (Cody) was at a few of those matches and I was hurling very well. I didn’t think I would be going in with Kilkenny but he kept an eye on me from then. It was the local club scene as well, and inter-county U21, a combination of all those things."

Tyrrell, 28 now, first came across Cody when he was a pupil at St Patrick’s De La Salle school in Kilkenny. Even then, teacher Cody commanded respect and carried a real presence.

Tyrrell reveals: "He had this timber metre stick and he’d wear it off the chair and scare the life out of us! Brian taught me in fourth, fifth and sixth class. We won a schools competition and Brian trained us. I went on from there, to secondary school and college before one day, I got a call off him in 2003, asking me training."

Tyrrell’s never looked back since and the current All Star had the honour of captaining Kilkenny to All-Ireland glory in 2006. Cork were the victims back then and next Sunday, the two counties renew acquaintances.

Comments made by Donal Óg Cusack in his autobiography, when he referred to Kilkenny as hurling’s version of The Stepford Wives, brings added spice to what promises to be a physical encounter.

Tyrrell smiles: "I read it. I surely did. I got it as a Christmas present. It’s interesting reading is all I’ll say! You have to admire Donal Óg for all he’s done, the level of professionalism and all he brings. But we don’t pay heed to what other people say.

"If they want to say we’re dirty or over physical, it goes in one ear and out the other. "We’re not fazed – it’s just the way we are."