Cork star Conor Lehane has paid tribute to NHL winners Kilkenny, pinpointing their “resilience” as one of the keys to their success.

Speaking at the launch of the Cork senior hurling championship last night, the Midleton clubman said of the Cats: “I admire them hugely, I always have.

"You’d hear people say they were sick of seeing them win All-Irelands or whatever, but I wouldn’t agree. You’d never begrudge or fault a team that deserves a win.

“Their attitude, you’d have to admire it.

“You’d love to put one over on them if you could, but the way they hold themselves, the way they perform... you’d have to admire that. It’s unreal.

“It’s their resilience, probably, more than anything else you’d admire. Regardless of what happens they’ll keep going.

“It might be down to experience — they’ve been in every situation you could possibly have in a match, and probably a few times.

“They know not to panic, they know how to keep the head — and, if things are going well, to drive it on.

“They seem well able to keep that mental side of things right, to be able to perform, and it works for them.

They’re winning titles and players have come and gone, finished their careers, fellas are out injured — but the way it’s built into them they keep it going. They always perform, I know people are probably fond of saying ‘they’re gone’ — when we won in the league people were saying that, but that doesn’t affect them.

Lehane’s Cork teammate Seamus Harnedy, of last year’s Cork SHC winners Imokilly, echoed Lehane’s words: “On any given day against Kilkenny you know what’s coming, their number one is work rate, their desire to win back the ball is absolutely second to none.

“It’s something other counties are always trying to emulate, and that’s up to us, it’s something to emulate.

“We’ve reached that level a couple of times, but we just have to do it more consistently.

“It’s the most competitive inter-county scene I can remember for a few years — there’s definitely seven or eight teams that can challenge for top honours this year.

“Kilkenny being so strong is good for hurling — they were never gone away, really, but they’re back as strong as ever now.

“You could see that by the strength of their team last Sunday.

“They’ll be around for a long time yet, but so are quite a few other sides.”

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