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Saturday 19 January 2019

Jackie Tyrell: JJ is the best ever

'Defence raised our standards for replay'

Kilkenny's Kieran Joyce and Jackie Tyrell with the Liam MacCarthy cup
Kilkenny's Kieran Joyce and Jackie Tyrell with the Liam MacCarthy cup

WHILE the numbers from the drawn All-Ireland final were being held aloft as documented, statistical evidence of its bona fides as an all-time classic, not everyone was quite so impressed.

To recap; 54 scores, 44 from play, nine wides, 69 scoring chances, proof, apparently, of the standard of hurling therein, though not necessarily reflective of any great level of defending, according to Jackie Tyrrell.

"People probably got caught up in the hype of it being an unbelievable game, and it was," he points out, the benefit of Saturday's replay victory behind him.

"But when you break it down to the hard facts, as a unit we probably didn't defend as well as we should.

"We have standards that we didn't get to that day but lucky enough our forwards pulled us through that day.

"I felt we could do an awful lot better and as a group we really targeted that."

Hence, Kilkenny produced one of the great defensive performances in the replay.

"There was a passage of play on Saturday where we got three or four blocks in, turned it around and John Power got a score," Tyrrell recalls.

standards

"That's huge. That's like scoring a goal. But we do take standards - I was disappointed with my performance in the drawn game.

"The backs the first day, I didn't think we defended as a unit, we defended as individuals.

"Whereas on Sunday we defended as a unit, we backed each other up. If you missed a ball there was a lad there right behind you and I thought ultimately, that was the difference."

Truly, it says something about the collective zeal and skill of Kilkenny's fight not to concede scores that the game's accepted highlight was that hook from JJ Delaney on Seamus Callanan.

"In my eyes - pound for pound - the best defender I have ever played with, easily," is how Tyrrell describes the other 'oldie' in the Cats defence on Saturday night.

"So it was just typical JJ Delaney."

Tyrrell, too, was hugely effective in the corner surrounded by men with less medals in their pockets but much more years still to play.

"The numbers are getting higher, I'm 32 now, getting old," he acknowledged.

"No, look, it's great and to even think about winning eight All-Irelands is unbelievable. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that. It's just brilliant, great days for us.

The James Stephens' man insisted there and then that he would return for a crack at a ninth medal but wasn't quite so sure of the rest of the 30 somethings in their ranks.

"I don't know. There was all the talk about lads being old and all that, but if you took myself and JJ off the starting 15 on Sunday you would have had a very young team," he poined out.

moulded

"In a kind of sly, unique way Brian has moulded in another team to carry on again.

"Lads will sit back and enjoy this and then assess their own goals. I haven't spoken to any of the lads about retirements and I hope there won't be anyway."

As has been pointed out ad naeseum since last Saturday, Henry Shefflin now has more All-Ireland medals than Championship defeats but Tyrrell insisted those remarkably rare lean years, such as last season, are the breeding grounds for successes such as Saturday's.

"They give you a small kick in the backside but if you need those kind of things to motivate you then you probably shouldn't be playing the game.

"We all have standards and things like that," Tyrrell insisted.

"It was tough to go up and watch it last year but it was no harm either, just to see how lucky we were to have played in so many finals and last year I was hoping to have more days like them again and thankfully we had it on Sunday.

grieving

"You are almost grieving for a year but the good thing about it is the year doesn't be long about rolling in.

"Given another month now and the analysis will start for next year, who is going to win it and who won't," Tyrrell concludes. "It just rolls from one year into the next."

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