Former Kilkenny forward Christy Heffernan argues DJ Carey’s imminent appointment to Brian Cody’s management team is a necessary one for the team’s hiccuping attack.
Few inter-county forwards have featured in the Cats’ brain trust over the last 30 years dating back before Cody. In the Cody era, Noel Skehan and James McGarry were goalkeepers, Derek Lyng a midfielder and Ger Henderson was a defender.
It’s a point Heffernan believes is worth highlighting at a time when he feels the onus on TJ Reid has never been greater.
Addressing that over-dependency, he feels, will be part of Carey’s brief.
“There’s one man trying to conduct the orchestra in the Kilkenny forward line at the moment and he’s not a DJ but a TJ. Henry (Shefflin) had all the lads around him but this lad has fellas around him who are hot and cold and cold more often than they’re hot. They have the ability and the skills but it’s their thinking on the ball that has been letting them down.
“In saying that, I look at our defence and the ball the other teams’ forwards are getting and the ball our backs are giving up the field. The way the game is gone, there has to be quality in the ball you’re sending forward and you’re not just driving it as far as you can.
But the area to improve most is our attack. DJ coming in will be a refreshing move and it’ll be a difficult task because the material we used to have isn’t there anymore.
“You have the likes of Walter Walsh, he should be having more influence on the game he’s been there so long.
“Ger Aylward got a bad injury but he came back and can’t get on the team.
“He was an All-Star and to not even be used there’s something wrong when a fella goes off form like that. But DJ could be the man to help him.”
Heffernan paid tribute to Laois native Mick Dempsey, who has chosen to step down, for the stellar 14 years of service he gave to Kilkenny.
“Mick Dempsey was brilliant and I would have the highest regard for Mick over the years.
“He gave great confidence in the players and each and every one of them would speak highly of him.”
There remains the question of who will take over from Dempsey as physical trainer but Heffernan knows there are more glaring issues to address such as how Kilkenny finished out this year’s Leinster final defeat to Wexford.
“That shouldn’t have happened at all. You look at the decision-making of Limerick against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final and they shouldn’t have panicked either. Okay, they were pressurised to a certain extent but they shouldn’t have lost that match. Kilkenny just dug it out.
In the Leinster final, it was crazy just dropping the ball the whole time and even Eoin Murphy came up and dropped two 70s in. Wexford deserved their win that day but we had our chances and you know the story if you don’t take them, you don’t win.
Four-time All-Ireland winner Heffernan feels Kilkenny will again be a force in 2020 yet knows they will have to alleviate the scoring burden on Reid if they are to win a first All-Ireland title in five years.
“You look at Waterford, Clare, Wexford, Limerick Galway; Kilkenny are better than most but it’s about getting it right at the right time. It’s about making the right decisions.
“You see the well-conducted teams like Tipperary and Limerick, they have good relationships between the players in the forward line.”