Brian Cody post-match interviews are usually run-of-the-mill affairs and this was no different but for one line.
Asked about how the Nowlan Park crowd aided his team, he responded: “There was no great expectation from anyone around the place for us this year but the support was excellent and we have as much belief as we ever would in this team, for certain. The crowd were excellent there tonight.”
Much like 2013, the home support that comprised the majority of the 15,605 attendance on Saturday evening realised they had a duty to perform.
This is a Kilkenny team in need, and encouragement was delivered in spades even if their enthusiasm was challenged on several occasions by 17 wides — in double figure for a second successive game — and their men’s difficulty to deal with the nuisances that were Limerick.
Kilkenny never went behind in this game — they led 0-10 to 0-8 at half-time after a pretty terrible opening half. They were level on just two occasions in the 24th minute and nine minutes into the second half — but they couldn’t shrug off Limerick.
Even when they went five points up in the 64th minute, their lead was whittled down to two in additional time, although Limerick never looked like scoring a goal.
For a forward line that was largely malfunctioning but for Walter Walsh and the odd moment of inspiration from TJ Reid, the intervention of Kevin Kelly made a difference. Fellow substitute Lester Ryan also helped himself to two points on an evening when it truly was a case of all hands on deck.
“Yeah, the two lads who came off the bench did very well, and that’s very important. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you put in subs and sometimes you don’t put in subs but the changes certainly did work.”
If Cody was sombre enough afterwards, John Kiely was dejected. For such a young group with nine U21s in the panel, this was a season of exploration but he wasn’t in the mood to put a positive note on matters.
“I’m disgusted the year is over because we’ve so much put in. If you only knew how much we’ve done.
Like, the boys have dedicated the last eight months to this thing and to lose two championship matches — one with a performance that we’re not happy with (v Clare) and the second one with a performance that brought us so close to the line, but we just couldn’t get across that line you know.
“And we’re going to miss this like, you know we wanted to keep going. We had plans for next week, to go training Monday night, pool recovery Sunday, but they’re all gone now. The boys go back to their clubs and we don’t see them for months on end.”
Kiely did, though, take pride from how some of his players, like Richie McCarthy, responded so strongly to what was said and written about them following the Clare defeat.
“Sure, a lot of the team came in for criticism. It’s a collective thing, like. We spoke about that after the last game. Whilst we were very hurt by an awful lot of the commentary by certain individuals, it allowed us to maybe use it in the lead-up to the game, you know, in that we were going to answer what type of team we actually are.
“I thought not only Richie was excellent but I thought the entire defence was fantastic. I’m just thrilled with the whole team, with the performance that they got out of themselves. But so, so disappointed that we didn’t manage to get the result.”
Worrying for Kilkenny is Richie Hogan’s poor form, which is obviously related to his ongoing back problems. Colin Fennelly didn’t spark as he did against Wexford despite his fellow forwards with the exception of Chris Bolger withdrawing to give him the space to be isolated on McCarthy.
Against Wexford, Kilkenny’s starting attack scored 1-1 from play. Here, they managed six points but it doesn’t help when so many are playing in retreated roles to crowd out midfield and more scores will obviously be required if they are to reach the All- Ireland quarter-finals.
That said, Cody wasn’t too upset by the wide count nor Fennelly or Hogan’s displays.
“Colin was absolutely outstanding the last day and it’s hard to follow up a performance like that. In the first half we probably didn’t get enough ball into him but that’s the game, that’s the way it goes and it’s not a question of everybody being outstanding every day. Colin worked non-stop for the team and that’s all you ever want anybody to do.”
Regarding Hogan, he offered: “Fellas go out and it doesn’t flow every day. If the few shots he had had gone over the bar, suddenly it takes off. He could have had three points, which he normally would have and suddenly you’re looking at a different thing. He’s a terrific player to have, and that’s for sure.”
T.J. Reid (0-8, 6 frees); W. Walsh (0-4); P. Deegan (0-3); K. Kelly, L. Ryan (0-2 each); C. Bolger (0-1).
S Dowling (0-8, 6 frees); P. Casey (0-3); K. Hayes, G. Hegarty (0-2 each); B. Nash, P. Ryan (0-1 each).
E. Murphy 7; P. Murphy 9, P. Walsh 7, J. Lyng 9; C. Fogarty 7, C. Buckley 7, J. Holden 6; M. Fennelly 7, P. Deegan (c) 7; T.J. Reid 7, R. Hogan 5, W. Walsh 7; C. Bolger 6, C. Fennelly 6, G. Aylward 6.
K. Kelly 7 for G. Aylward (45); L. Blanchfield 6 for R. Hogan (52); L. Ryan 7 for P. Deegan (56); M. Bergin 6 for C. Bolger (64).
N. Quaid 7; S. Finn 7, R. McCarthy 9, M. Casey 7; D. Morrissey 6, D. Hannon 8, S. Hickey 7; C. Lynch 6, P. Browne 6; S. Dowling 7, D. O’Donovan 5, K. Hayes 7; P. Casey 7, G. Hegarty 7, D. Dempsey 6.
B. Nash 7 for G. Hegarty (46); J. Ryan 6 for D. O’Donovan (50); T. Morrissey 6 for D. Dempsey (54); P. Ryan 7 for P. Browne (59); G. Mulcahy 6 for C. Lynch (68).
B. Gavin (Offaly).