It was Paul Murphy who quipped last year that Kilkenny colleague TJ Reid, who sells animal feed in his day job, looks like ‘he’s eating a few of them himself’.
Reid has bulked up in the last few years, developing a powerful presence and admitting that when he was younger, he used to feel like a boy in a man’s game. It was particularly strong in the late 2000s when he came up against Cork’s Gardiner, Curran, and Ó hAilpín, one of the most dominant half-back trios ever.
Behind them in Cork’s full-back line was Diarmuid ‘The Rock’ O’Sullivan. Reid, in his early 20s, wouldn’t have been human if he didn’t feel a little intimidated. The penny dropped in his mid-twenties that he needed to muscle up. Doing so has helped him dominate the hurling world for the past two seasons, returning championship hauls of 4-32 and 4-53 in 2014 and 2015.
“I said to myself a few years ago that my hurling was there and my ability to hurl was there, but mentally and physically I wasn’t there,” said 2015 Hurler of the Year Reid.
“Going back in time, it was a man’s game and if you were a young lad going out against the likes of The Rock in Cork and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, they were really strong men. It was definitely a man’s game and I wasn’t physically right for it but every year it’s changing and I’m hopefully developing.
“The game has changed now in that you need speed moreso than physicality. For myself, I concentrated on conditioning and nutrition and I think it has helped.
“I took it upon myself to address it, because I knew that while I was going to the gym, it wasn’t enough and I wasn’t focused on it as such. It’s like a routine to me now and I can’t go without it.”
Kilkenny face Galway in Sunday’s Leinster final and Reid will be a marked man after his 1-9 and 1-7 tallies in last year’s provincial and All-Ireland final wins over the Tribesmen.
It seems almost implausible now that just four years ago the Ballyhale man, 28, considered quitting after being taken off in Kilkenny’s 2012 Leinster final loss to Galway.
The following summer he started just three of their six championship games and returned just 0-2 as he battled injury before seriously addressing his approach to the game.
We’ll never know, but he’d probably have the measure of that Cork half-back line these days.
Here’s a little extra sport: BallTalk TV look ahead to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
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