A refusal to lose their heads is the essential ingredient in Kilkenny’s impressive second-half performances over the past two seasons, according to TJ Reid.
The Cats have won every second period of championship hurling since the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final win over Limerick when they managed just 1-4 after the interval.
That’s eight consecutive SHC games where they have been second-half superiors, the latest coming in the Leinster final where Galway had shone before the break.
Being in a similar situation in last year’s All-Ireland final against the same opposition helped, recalled Reid.
“A few words were said at half-time. It was a bit like the All-Ireland final last year – we let Galway play the game on their terms. In the first half, we didn’t get going.
“The big thing is we didn’t panic. That was said at half-time, ‘Don’t panic. Even if Galway get a goal after half-time, it’s a long 37 minutes. Anything can happen.’ We were lucky we had the opportunity to reflect on things at half-time. If it was a training session, Brian (Cody) would have pulled us in after five or 10 minutes and said, ‘that standard isn’t good enough.’ And the standard wasn’t good enough.
“I knew my performance wasn’t good enough. Every individual had the same gut feeling. Everybody rose their game an extra 20 or 30%.”
Last year’s hurler of the year accepts Kilkenny can’t keep relying on second halves to redeem themselves but knows the trend won’t last forever. “We’ll have to work on starting out of the blocks. Last year’s All-Ireland final, we didn’t start well. Last year’s Leinster final we didn’t start well either. It’s not going to happen every time.”
Man-marked by Daithí Burke in the first half of the Leinster final, Reid can anticipate extra attention again against Waterford on Sunday. “It’s part of the game and you have to take it on the chin and give it back as much as you’re getting it. I’m only a forward in the six forwards. There are other top-class forwards scoring as well. If they’re trying to pinpoint me there’s no point because there are five other forwards there that can go damage as well.”
Reid accepts Waterford have bulked up since their last championship meeting.
“They probably have. We only played them in the league back in February, so I haven’t seen them closely. They look strong and fit. They have had another year of conditioning. They seem a lot fitter as well, and they seem to be able to push on.
“Their system of playing takes an awful lot of fitness to overcome it. You saw against Clare: the last 10 or 15 minutes they were still making those 40 or 50-metre runs and that’s where it counts in tight games.”
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