He played in three All-Ireland final wins for Kilkenny, and won four medals in total, but the conversation that ended Kieran Joyce’s county career last October was a short one.
Joyce, 30 at the time, met Brian Cody for a sit-down discussion after being frozen out of the Championship team and the feedback wasn’t good.
“I didn’t feature after the Wexford match last year,” said Joyce, who played at full-back in that high-profile defeat. “If a fella got injured, I wasn’t even the first man to come on. So I said to him: ‘Obviously I’m not featuring and I’m not the first man to come in either, is the belief and the confidence still there in me?’
“He said: ‘It is, but we’re looking at other people now so I can’t say that this isn’t going to be the case going forward’.
“I said: ‘Look, if that is the case, it’s a big sacrifice’. And I didn’t want to be there for the sake of being there.
“I didn’t want to be holding up the position for other players to come in. I’ve seen that there’s plenty of young players coming in, you’re seeing it there now at the moment. I said: ‘That’s fine so, I’ll step aside and let the next few lads come in’.
Joyce, a starter in the 2012, 2014, and 2015 final wins, and an unused sub in the 2011 defeat of Tipperary, has had little contact with anyone on the panel since.
“You don’t really be talking to the lads that much because they’re away training,” he said.
As if to underline how quickly life moves on, the former half-back found out the day of that Cody meeting which ended his Kilkenny career that his partner was expecting their first child.
“It’s funny how life flows,” said the 31-year-old.
Joyce’s 22nd Championship appearance came when he lined out in the 2016 All-Ireland final loss to Tipperary. He finished on 23 appearances as he didn’t feature against Limerick or Waterford after the Wexford loss last summer.
Cody is clearly moving on and handed seven players their Championship debuts in last Sunday’s hard fought win over Dublin.
Joyce anticipates that many of those same players will get a chance again at Nowlan Park this Sunday against Offaly in Round 2.
“I do expect Paul (Murphy) and Colin (Fennelly) to probably start, apart from that I wouldn’t think there’ll be too many changes,” said Joyce. “Brian’s not one to change a team too much if it’s winning.”
Kilkenny’s league title win surprised some given the scale of transition and Joyce reckons they’re in with a good chance of winning the All-Ireland again, provided key players stay fit.
“If we can keep TJ injury free for a year, if we get the likes of Richie Hogan back in, I do think we could be All-Ireland contenders. Obviously Wally Walsh as well, it is very dependant on that. There’s a couple of key players there, if we lose them it will be a tough season.
“I do think the spine of the team is starting to show, from Brian’s point of view he’s after finding a few players in the league. Martin Keoghan and those lads have shown up well. He does have options there whereas in previous years he didn’t.”
Kieran Joyce is a style ambassador for Littlewoods Ireland and launched their #StyleOfPlay campaign for the 2018 All-Ireland SHC. Littlewoods Ireland’s ‘Style My Wall’ competition has a grand prize valued at €10,000.
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