That was until last Sunday’s defeat to Tipperary, which followed reverses against Dublin and Galway.
It was in 1987 that the Cats last suffered such a poor run when, in the pre-Christmas start to the competition, they were beaten by Waterford and Galway in October followed by Wexford in November. They recovered impressively from their bumpy beginning, winning their next four games.
Unlike now, there weren’t as many mitigating factors in the Cats’ struggles, such as retirements, injuries or club champions involved in an All-Ireland final.
However, they were coming off an All-Ireland final defeat to Galway just a month before.
Those 28 years without the indignity of a hat-trick of league defeats is a long one, but not as lengthy as Galway’s: by the time 2016 comes around it will be 41 years since they last lost three in a row in the NHL.
Much like Kilkenny in 1987, their string of disappointments came in the wake of a heavy All-Ireland final defeat, this time to Cork.
Either side of Kilkenny repeating the dose that autumn, Wexford and Tipperary made the most of Galway’s hangover.
Both Cork and Limerick’s records would have required a more studious look at the history books were it not for their strikes in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Cork’s weakened side fell to Dublin, Tipperary and Galway before the 2008 players returned to the panel.
Limerick weren’t as fortunate, losing all seven of the Division 1 games five years ago on the way to relegation. They also lost their two championship games, to Cork in a Munster semi-final and Offaly in a phase two qualifier.
Until this year, Kilkenny hadn’t lost three consecutive league games in a single campaign since 1987. But how far back do we have to go to discover the last time the other 11 teams in the top two divisions suffered their worst run of woe?
Galway 1975 (Kilkenny, Tipperary, Clare)
Tipperary 1994-95 (Kilkenny, Galway, Cork, Clare)
Waterford 2009 (Dublin, Galway, Limerick)
Clare 2009 (Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary, Cork, Kilkenny)
*Cork 2009 (Dublin, Tipperary, Galway)
*Limerick 2010 (Galway, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Offaly, Kilkenny, Dublin)
Dublin 2010 (Offaly, Kilkenny, Cork, Galway)
Wexford 2011 (Galway, Waterford, Kilkenny, Dublin, Offaly)
Laois 2012 (Offaly, Limerick, Clare, Antrim, Wexford)
Offaly 2014 (Laois, Wexford, Cork)
Antrim 2014 (Wexford, Limerick, Laois, Waterford)
* Players made themselves unavailable for selection