Kilkenny captain Cillian Buckley has admitted his team are getting to grips with their new style of play which places more emphasis on ball retention.
The Cats looked to be in a difficult place when they opened their Allianz League Division 1A campaign with defeats to Cork and Clare following a difficult 2017 season, their worst under Brian Cody.
But five wins on the trot has subsequently propelled them through to Sunday’s league final and half-back Buckley said he is enjoying their altered style of play.
“I suppose we’ve had to try to adapt to the different formats and different formations that you’re coming up against on the field,” he said.
“It’s probably happened unknown to ourselves that we’re doing it and we’re becoming more confident because of that.
“It hasn’t been a big thing in our training or anything like that but it’s something that all teams are doing at this stage; possession has become more important than ever.
“It used to be to get the ball as far away from your goal as possible and give your forwards the best chance to score but I think possession has become more important than that, holding onto possession in your own half of the field.
“We are becoming better at it, we still have a lot to work on but we’re becoming more confident playing that kind of way alright.”
Buckley conceded Kilkenny were ‘nowhere near the pace of it’ last year when they struggled in the league and Championship.
The Cats lost a league quarter-final to Wexford and came up short in an All-Ireland qualifier for the first time under Brian Cody.
It all feels like business as usual now for the 2015 All-Ireland winners who’ll play Tipperary in the league decider for the fourth time since 2009 on Sunday.
But half-back Buckley said it’s taken a serious improvement to get to this point and described how missing out on an All-Ireland final last year felt so strange.
“Yeah definitely, it was unusual obviously,” he said. “We’d been involved in All-Ireland finals for the three years previously, hurling right up until September so being dumped out of it in July was strange.
“Thoughts went into it over the winter and everyone was gunning to get up to the standards and the pace Galway have set and the few teams that pushed them like Tipperary and Waterford.
“It’s just facing those challenges and doing a bit more over winter which we had time to do compared to other years. I think we’re thereabouts in the mix again.”
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