Nickey Brennan: There needs to be an element of realism in Kilkenny

The former Kilkenny hurler explains that with the departure of so many top players from the panel in recent years, the Cats were always set to hit a lull

Kilkenny

Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Former Kilkenny hurler Nickey Brennan says that the Cat's league form will not hinder the team heading into the Championship this summer, but insists there needs to be an element of realism among supporters.

Kilkenny have enjoyed unprecedented success since the turn of the millennium and have produced arguably the greatest team to have ever played the game. 

But, with the departure of a number of senior players from the team as well as those on the treatment table, Kilkenny are continuing to build a team that can challenge Tipperary, Waterford and Clare this summer.

"Kilkenny have lost a lot of huge players over the last number of years," the former GAA President told Newstalk.com. "In more recent times, the likes of Jackie Tyrell and Eoin Larkin. You don’t replace those players overnight.

"There’s probably more spots up for grabs on the team than there has been for some time. Cody and his selectors are in position where they also have to try and fill two central defensive roles. It doesn’t mean that the guys who were in there last year won’t end up in them again. The coaching staff are working to come up with another formula, hence the reason Pádraig Walsh is being tested at full-back.

"He’s going pretty well there, albeit, depriving the side of another attacking player further up the field.

"People are realistic enough to know that it does take time. The younger lads have a decent pedigree at underage, but it’s a huge step up to come up against the top teams.

"I don’t think there's a question of panic. There has to be an element of realism." 

Brian Cody's side have lost their opening two games of the league campaign, coming up short against both Waterford and Clare.

Their first win of the league came against Cork and Brennan agrees that it's taken a little longer than usual for the team to find their feet since the start of the new year.

"It doesn’t always happen to Kilkenny but they came into a league match under a bit of pressure, because of the fact that they had lost their first two games.

"Cody always wants to get into the closing stages of the national league. Win it if possible - I mean it’s always an aim to win the league - but he certainly wants to get Kilkenny into the latter stages.

"They’ve a long way to go to get to that stage yet, but I’m sure there was a message to everyone involved that it is the target. Players are in no doubt and all of that combined to produce a better performance against Cork last Sunday."

Waterford saw off Kilkenny in their opening league game, Patrick Curran's goal proving the difference on the day. Image: ©INPHO/Ken Sutton 

The target now for Kilkenny will be to bed new players into the team so that they are better equipped for the challenge of the All-Ireland Championship.

"Even over the last year or so they’ve added quite a number of players in at training.

"These guys might never have been named in a match programme or included in the official 30 players. But any of the guys brought in would be acquainted with the Kilkenny set-up at senior level for the last year.

"You can’t just bring a player in from the club scene and just throw him into the heat of inter-county action. They have to build themselves up physically and mentally to be able to take on the challenge that inter-county hurling at the top level poses.

"They might be good hurlers, but there are plenty of areas that they have to build up. People’s lifestyles change because of the demand of the inter-county scene now."

The Cats travel to Semple Stadium this weekend in need of a result and an opportunity to show the rest of the country what they're made of. This is Kilkenny after all.

But the Premier County will be on a high after seeing off both Waterford and Clare in the past two rounds and Brennan says that's down to the number of quality hurlers that at manager Michael Ryan's disposal.

"Tipperary are in a very strong position. They’re in a position now where the scale of their panel is very strong. They’ve got 23 or 24 players, any one of whom could get on the pitch at a given time.

"That’s a great bonus to any manager picking a team. Kilkenny are not in that position at the moment and they still have work to do. But I would be the last to ever write off Kilkenny.

"They have their work to do but the environment that has been established for quite a long time under Brian will help these players thrive as the evenings get longer."