Tyrrell's trek to beat his doubts
STRANGE but true: it took until the 2009 All-Ireland SHC final for Jackie Tyrrell to fully believe he was a top hurler worthy of wearing the Kilkenny jersey, writes Frank Roche.
By then, he had already captained the Cats to All-Ireland coronation in 2006 and followed up with back-to-back All Stars in '07 and '08.
But it wasn't until the following year's four-in-a-row campaign that Tyrrell (pictured) "really came into myself and started to become the player I wanted to be. I met someone, started talking to them, and that really gave me a lot of confidence."
Almost six years on, he is the eldest survivor in the Kilkenny dressing-room (with the exception of Henry Shefflin, who may well return later). Yet the 32-year-old didn't give retirement a second thought after collecting his seventh Celtic Cross last September, or even as a raft of fellow veterans called time over the winter.
The James Stephen's man is now preparing for Kilkenny's NHL Division 1A opener in Cork tomorrow night, happy in his Black-and-Amber skin. But it wasn't always the way.
"I had a very shaky underage career," he recalled. "Minor, I was very average. Had a very bad All-Ireland semi-final, David Forde took me for five points. An under-21 Leinster game here (in Nowlan Park), Rory Jacob scored a goal off me in the last minute.
"I would have had a lot of doubts from then and would have been carrying a lot of baggage. 'Am I good enough? Should I be even here?' So, it took three years of winning All-Irelands to finally realise how good I was."
Tyrrell concluded: "Everyone has doubts and fears, even the most confident and strongest guys out there. The best guys on the planet - Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Brady, these guys - have doubts and fears. It's how you manage that and deal with it.
"From my point of view, it was then that I banished those doubts and fears and (realised) that Jackie Tyrrell is good enough to play for Kilkenny."