"I have never witnessed such a raw hunger" - Jackie Tyrrell on why Kilkenny are the most successful of all time

The nine-time All-Ireland winner shares his experience in one of the game's most successful teams

Jackie Tyrrell

Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan 

Over the past 16 years, Kilkenny have dominated the hurling lanscape.

Earlier this year, they opted to ratify Brian Cody for a 19th year at the helm of the Cats. Cody has overseen 11 All-Ireland wins as Kilkenny boss since the turn of the millennium and guided them to six in seven years between 2006 and 2012.

Along the way, teams have managed to dethrone the mighty Kilkenny, Cork picking up back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005, Tipperary popping up to win in 2010 and most recently in 2016 and of course Clare's dramatic victory in 2013 to clinch just their fourth in the county's history.

But, for the most part, Kilkenny have been the dominant force. Their golden generation may be slowly coming to an end with many of their more experienced players calling time on their inter-county careers.

Richie Power was forced into an early retirement in January with a knee injury, while Eoin Larkin retired with eight All-Ireland medals in his back pocket.

Last month, Jackie Tyrrell, Kilkenny's All-Ireland winning captain back in 2006, hung up his boots. He enjoyed one of the greatest ever hurling careers with nine All-Ireland wins, 11 Leinster titles, six national hurling league medals and four All-Stars.

Being on the inside of one of the greatest teams to ever play the game, Tyrrell is able to share what makes the team peerless over the past two decades.

"It was a hugely skillful hungry ambitious [group of] guys who would do anything to win," he said. "Sprinkle in some of the greatest hurlers you’ll ever see in Tommy Walsh, JJ [Delaney], Henry [Shefflin]. Also, guys who, when they won one [All-Ireland], they wanted more.

"I think when you win an All-Ireland, it’s natural to become soft and natural not to become as hungry. But we had a burning desire in us every year to be the best. It wasn’t a motto or anything but if we didn’t win an All-Ireland every year, it was a waste of a year.

"No matter what you did personally, or if you won a league or a Leinster [title]... It was a waste of a year. In between we would have lost one or two but it gave us that kick in the backside to get that hunger going back again.

"If you won an All-Ireland, you’d have a great week and then you’d go back to your club and you’d be ready to go again. You couldn’t wait to get back. I have never witnessed a raw hunger within a group of lads."

Jackie Tyrrell (left) and JJ Delaney celebrate after beating Tipperary in the 2014 All-Ireland replay. Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan  

The success comes down largely to the players on the pitch, but a lot of the credit from their recent success can also be attributed to the management.

Cody has been able, for almost two decades, to introduce young players into a team, develop systems which will get the most out of his squad and retain the desire to want to win every year.

"Individually lads were so ambitious, but also, Brian was central to that. If he sensed anyone slipping he would put lads back in line. He was central to integrating lads and [identifying] lads who had to go. He managed the group of players excellently and he always had them peaking at the right time.

"We had bad days in between, but he was never rash. If we lost a league final or we lost a game he was able to see the wood from the trees and he wouldn’t go crazy chopping and changing for the sake of it."

With all things considered, would Tyrrell say that he has played with the greatest hurling team of all time?

"Yeah I probably could, yeah. I could probably say I’ve played with some of the greatest hurlers or on the greatest hurling team ever.

"I haven’t seen a whole lot of history but I think I could say that we are up there anyway. You [the press] would probably be able to comment as to whether we are the greatest. It’s hard to know.

"I would feel that we were part of something hugely special and unique that I don’t think will ever be replicated ever again on the hurling field."

Littlewoods Ireland was on Tuesday unveiled as a new top tier partner of both the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Camogie Association. The online department store has signed a three-year deal with the GAA which sees them become both the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship and Camogie National League sponsor until 2019. Pictured at the launch are, from left, former Cork camogie star Anna Geary, Waterford hurler Austin Gleeson and former Kilkenny hurler Jackie Tyrell in Croke Park, Dublin.