My successor at full-back in for the long haul with Kilkenny, says JJ Delaney

Whether it’s Paul Murphy or Joey Holden, JJ Delaney believes his successor as Kilkenny full-back will nail down the position for as long as he held it.

Delaney first took the mantle in the county’s four-in-a-row All-Ireland season of 2009 when a knee injury ruled out Noel Hickey.

The void he has left behind him is immense and Murphy acknowledged he struggled filling the position during this year’s league campaign.

Holden is also a live contender for the No. 3 jersey having impressed at the edge of the square in Ballyhale Shamrocks’ All-Ireland club success.

Delaney knows it’s not a question of who loses out but who is in the middle and who is in the corner.

“The in-house trainings, they’ll have Paul Murphy at one end and Joey Holden at the other and it’s between the two of them. Whoever is going to be full-back, the other will be in the corner anyway.

“It all depends on who is showing form coming up to the first round of the championship. We have club league this weekend and that will have a bearing too.

“Whoever does take it over, it will be for this year, next year and for the next four or five years ahead of them. It’s a learning curve but whoever does settle down and get it will have it for four or five years.”

For the likes of Hickey, full-back was a natural fit but for Delaney, as good as he looked taking up the role having played at wing-back, it was an acquired position.

The same applies to Murphy at least: he has to learn.

“Out on the wing you can play a lot more ball, take a lot more risks,” he says of his own story. “You’re involved in the play more. All the puck-outs are coming out on the half-back line.

“Make a mistake out there and the most you can concede is probably a point. You’d be unlucky if your lad runs through and handpasses to the corner-forward to get a goal.

“In around the full-back line, it’s not about hitting the ball: It’s about stopping your man getting scores. Nine times out of 10, the full-forward on the other team is going to be the danger man. It’s up to you, you against him.

“In the last couple of years, a lot of teams are playing a two-man full-forward line so there is a hell of a lot more space in the full-back line compared to three or four years ago. So while you have to attack some ball, you have to be patient in the tackle as well. If you can’t block him, shepherd him out and let him shoot rather than jumping in at him, concede a free and the ball is straight over the bar.

“You’d nearly be surprised when a free-taker misses a free now. So when you do foul, it’s a point against you.”

It may be regarded that Delaney is replacing Henry Shefflin as Sky Sports new hurling pundit after the latter last week agreed to join RTÉ’s GAA team having held talks with Sky.

But the best defender Brian Cody has ever seen is not a shabby alternative to the best player the Kilkenny manager has witnessed.

Delaney insists he won’t be pulling any punches — “You’re there to do a job, to give your honest opinion. If you try to bluff, people will see right through that” — but speaking about Cody will be an interesting prospect.

Recalling his interviews as a player, he said: “You were always wondering what Brian was going to think. But Brian is realistic as well, we soldiered with him so we know what he’s about, what he stands for and what he says in the media is actually what he stands for.

“He doesn’t hide behind anything, he doesn’t say anything in the training ground that he doesn’t say in public as well. Brian has nothing to hide either.”

Maybe Cody won’t like Delaney’s assertion that Tipperary are All-Ireland favourites. Then again, maybe he won’t mind.

“You look at Tipperary in the league and they’re probably a small step ahead of Kilkenny at the moment, but that’s not to say Kilkenny can’t catch up in the summer. They were missing the Ballyhale lads, they were missing Conor Fogarty, Eoin Larkin and Richie Power.”

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