It’s his tenth season on the Cork senior hurling panel and Tom Kenny is always willing to share his experience with younger teammates.
“You’d have a quiet word before a game with them, if you think you can help them along, but it’s not a conscious thing. You’d find yourself shouting instructions for the betterment of the team.
“I’m a veteran now and now and then you’d have a word or two before a game, but generally they’re very good to find their way. And if they want advice they’ll come to you anyway.”
Many of the Cork players will have their first taste of championship action in Croke Park this Sunday, but Kenny isn’t worried on that score.
“We were there in the league and there was a double-header, there was a bit of a crowd so that was good for them. Some of them would have played in 2010 so they’d have seen a big crowd, but the crowd at the Cork-Waterford game in Thurles was big and vocal — that’ll help them.
“Really, what can you say to them? I know it’s Croke Park but at the end of the day you’re going out to play between four white lines on a pitch. We’ve been up there a good few times but we haven’t been successful there for a while — Kilkenny beat us in 2008 and 2010 and going up Sunday we’re going to look to atone for that, to take Cork back to a final.
“It’s six years since we’ve been there and that’s a long time.”
Galway stand in their way, however, and the westerners flummoxed Kilkenny in the Leinster final with their tactical approach.
“Every team goes out with a system they try to stick to,” said Kenny. “But there comes a time in a game when all bets are off and you have to play heads-up. They talk about heads-up rugby and in hurling sometimes you have to do that.
“Even if you have a system, if you feel something else is better at a given time then you have to go with that. Galway are Leinster champions, they had a fantastic Leinster final, but we’re where we wanted to be at the start of the year, an All-Ireland semi-final, so hopefully lads can go out and play without pressure and do themselves proud.”
The Waterford game that got them there was the kind of encounter that showed their progress.
“I suppose so given we got a result. In 2007 we left a three or four point lead slip against Waterford and lost the replay; in 2010 we left a three-point lead slip in the Munster final and lost the replay.
“Cork haven’t won a game like that in a long time, in terms of being down, the game looking gone, Jimmy and the lads making shrewd substitutions to turn the game. That was good from a Cork point of view and will give us confidence this weekend if we find ourselves in that position.
Kenny’s glad he didn’t follow through on his own schedule for walking away from inter-county action: “I always said that when I got to 30 I’d probably give it up and move on, but last year I injured my finger and the year didn’t end well for me.
“I missed the Galway game and was out for six or seven weeks after that. Jimmy rang me during the winter and asked if I was coming back and I said I’d love to be involved if the wanted me to be involved — I wasn’t going to say ‘yeah, I’m coming back if this, that or the other’.”
Still, he made a conscious effort to adopt a positive approach.
“I’d always be optimistic and positive in myself anyway. You choose to go to training and you should try to get the most out of it rather than being down on yourself when you go in. you’re there to train, to play for Cork, and putting yourself in a good frame of mind helps when you go out to train.
“That’s what I tried to do — I could have felt down after the league final but I stayed positive, told myself I had to fight my way back onto the team and that’s what I did.”
And Sunday’s opponents?
“They’ve been very good in fairness. In the league we were up four or five points and they turned it around totally in the second half. We were playing catch-up for the entire second half.
“In the Leinster final they gave a fantastic performance. We played the night before and I was out for a walk but I got a text from someone about what had happened in the first 15, 20 minutes and I had to go home to see what was happening.
“They’ve played the Leinster final and were fantastic, there wasn’t much between them and Westmeath but that was just about going to Mullingar and getting a win. They showed their credentials in the Leinster final and it’s going to be difficult for us.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved