Cillian Buckley says Tipperary are 'definitely the best team in the country'

The Kilkenny midfielder also labelled this year's league campaign as "a failure"

Cillian Buckley

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Last summer's All-Ireland final victory came in one big euphoric burst for Tipperary and their manager Michael Ryan.

Toppling Kilkenny is always something to be celebrated, but this year has presented a different set of post-All-Ireland opportunities. Ryan has cultivated a strong panel and this year went unbeaten in four of their five league games.

Their league semi-final victory over Wexford was as clinical as it was reaffirming; Tipperary look set to carry their dominant form into the summer.

Despite losing marquee forward Seamus Callanan to injury, they now look forward to adding the Division 1 Hurling League title to their collection when they meet Galway this weekend.

Kilkenny midfielder Cillian Buckley has no doubts as to the quality the reigning All-Ireland champions possess.

"They’re definitely still the best team in the country, that has to be acknowledged," he said. "They set the bar and have a serious panel of 20-25 players.

"We’re not a million miles away at the moment, but still a lot of work to be done to get back to where they are at the moment. They are a different level.

"If you take your foot off the pedal they’re capable of hitting you with three or four goals."

Kilkenny could manage only a draw against their Munster counterparts earlier this year, but continue to count the cost of losing a number of high profile players to retirement over the past 12 months.

Cillian Buckley at the launch of the new Leinster GAA Beko Club Bua Award Programme at Croke Park. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Ambition

Brian Cody still has lofty ambitions for a team that is best described as 'in transition', but Buckley is confident standards won't drop.

"We set out to win the League and we didn't, it was a failure in that regard. As regards getting more options, trying new players, it's been as good as any.

"What Brian wants to get out of the League is to blood more players and have more options come Championship. In that sense, it's been as good as any."

The changing of the team also means a change in role for the 24-year-old, who now sees himself as one of the senior members in this Kilkenny squad.

"It kind of happens unknown to yourself in a way. There's definitely loads of names still ahead of me. Natural leaders, you don't even have to go looking for them, lads just pop up.

"You go and lend a helping hand to the younger lads, you see yourself in them. You show them the do's and don't's and the whole thing moves along, that's the natural progression.

"The lads who are gone left a legacy there and left us standards to meet, it's up to us to try and get up to them and drive the younger lads with us."

Diarmuid Connolly was speaking at the launch of the Beko Club Bua award scheme, a new club accreditation and health check system coordinated by Leinster GAA for clubs in the province. For more information visit Leinstergaa.ie.