This is the best two weeks of a hurler’s career and you’ll be the envy of every other player in the country. Everyone wants to take part in the biggest day of the hurling year, but that comes with many pitfalls, some of which I know only too well.
The two-week gap doesn’t leave much room for activity on the pitch, but this weekend may have been tentatively booked in advance to bring everyone together in a bubble to analyze the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly.
The short break between semifinals and finals can help some inexperienced players as you can detach from the hype. There’s nothing worse than not talking about the final anymore and I fell into that trap 14 years ago.
I felt mentally drained as the final day of All-Ireland rolled around. If I had played a few finals before 2008 I probably would have been a lot better equipped to deal with whatever came my way and stay away from all the unwanted noise.
Young Kilkenny cats must have bright heads on young shoulders and be smart about who to talk to and where to go for the next eight days.
Even someone like TJ Reid, who runs his own business, will try to get in and out at the right time and do the best for him to make sure he’s in the perfect frame of mind at the time of the throw-in.
Youngsters like Mikey Butler and Cian Kenny have no experience playing in an All-Ireland final. It’s like waiting for Santy on Christmas Eve as a kid, but that night can often be the worst sleep of the year.
There is so much anticipation for what lies ahead and you don’t want to drain any energy; You want to hop by 3.30pm and be ready to dump every drop of blood, sweat and tears on this famous turf.
Sleep experts say that if you tossed and turned the night before and both sides have the comfort of sleeping in their own bed while we were in one in 2008, it’s important to get plenty of sleep in your body this week Hotel were and I just never liked another mattress. Kilkenny knew the do’s and don’ts back then while we were newcomers at Waterford and I’m sure Brian Cody will do a good job of briefing the newcomers on how to deal with the pressure whilst that’s crazy for Limerick.
They rubbed shoulders with Tiger Woods at this week’s JP McManus Pro-Am where they looked very relaxed. It was only the day after the semi-finals, though, and they’ll have drawn a line in the sand and gone under pretty soon after that.
Tickets can be a huge headache for players, and over the years – whether it was a Munster or an All-Ireland final – you’ve never wanted to let anyone down.
You get a contingent and don’t want to search for more tickets again. Once you exceed your quota, others may appear and it must be a closed shop. I recently heard Tommy Walsh and he let his mother be in control all these years and he didn’t have to worry about it at all. That kind of wisdom comes with experience and he was well used to it.
Nothing prepares you, the player, to face a packed Croke Park and all that entails. You’ll either take it like a duck to water or lose yourself in the opportunity, and that’s the challenge for some new Kilkenny faces against a wily Limerick.
John Kiely and Cody also have some big picks coming up but I reckon they know at least 14 of their 15 starters at this point and the big question is will Cian Lynch start? My gut feeling is that Peter Casey will start instead and that Lynch will be held in reserve.
Having watched him closely in the warm up against Galway last week I still have the feeling he’s not quite at 100 per cent and I know only too well how difficult it is to recover and return to games after a hamstring tear.
It’s more mental than physical and it’s not like any other injury. You’d rather break your hand and the bone settles back in time and you’re good to go, while the hamstring is very challenging mentally.
You think about that in practice and you’re like, ‘Can I get another arrow and feel like I’m getting shot by a sniper again?’ Kiely went the right way and will get it for the last quarter because this game is neither won nor lost in the first half.
I see it going to the end and I’d rather have him for the finish than the start.
It’s a bit like Cody putting Henry Shefflin in the starting XI against Tipperary in the 2010 All-Ireland Final and the impact his early departure had on things. What would be the implications if Lynch started and walked off injured? The cats would then be supplied with energy again.
Cian is a smart kid and he will be open and honest about his fitness. It’s about winning All-Irelands and doing whatever it takes to make it happen. If that means Lynch starts on the bench and slowly releases the handbrake, so be it.
Cody will also have to decide whether or not to start Walter Walsh because of his size and physicality, but I expect he’ll use his experience of the big day right from the start as they try to take down the green machine.
It may be eight days away, but what happens between now and then could decide Liam MacCarthy’s goal.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/tickets-sleep-hype-and-selection-calls-many-pitfalls-are-lurking-that-could-dash-all-ireland-dreams-41826348.html Tickets, sleep, hype and selection calls – there are many pitfalls lurking that could ruin All-Ireland dreams