It’s an ancient myth that is being dispelled more and more with every passing year and game and Patrick Horgan was keen to give his two cents on the topic of Kilkenny tactics.
The Cork sharpshooter was on the receiving end of the might of Brian Cody’s hurling brain as his side were picked apart for portions of their recent All-Ireland quarter-final clash which abruptly ended the Rebel challenge for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Despite a strong first-half challenge, and a personal contribution of 3-10 from Horgan, John Meyler’s side fell to a six-point defeat to Kilkenny thanks to the performances of their elder statesmen, TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan.
Speaking as he was announced the PwC GPA/GAA Hurling Player of the Month, Horgan had no complaints about the manner of their defeat given their brief ‘no-show’ at the beginning of the second period.
“We played all the hurling in the first half and you look up at the scoreboard at half-time and you’re two points up.
“You’re thinking ‘we had the ball for the whole half, how is that even possible?’ And then we just fell asleep for 15 minutes. We got back into after that but it was probably too late.
“They obviously tweaked something [at half-time] and it took us till 15 minutes to figure it out and by the time we did, it was something like six, seven points. We got it back to three but then we missed a chance or two to keep the scoreboard going. We left a lot of it after us, we’re better than that.”
The fact that they “tweaked something” is further proof that Cody and the Cats go into every clash with a game plan and primed with tactics.
While they are always viewed as the most ‘traditional’ county who play a pure brand of hurling, in truth, the game is constantly evolving and the fact that Kilkenny are in the All-Ireland final proves that they are evolving with it.
The three-time All-Star winner maintains that teams need to keep changing with the game or else they will be left behind.
“You have to. It’s changing by the week now depending on who you are playing. It’s like paper, scissors, rock – everybody can beat each other doing different things.
“You have Kilkenny, everyone says they just play away – they don’t, that’s definite. They have more tactics and video analysis than anyone else – I guarantee you that.
“It’s changing week-to-week and you have to have players who can adapt to that whether they’re playing a Limerick type style or a Tipp type style. It’s all different styles and if you can’t move with it, you’re going to be left behind fairly fast.”
Despite the loss last month, their fourth loss in Croke Park since they last won there in 2013, Horgan insists that the Rebels have no mental hang-ups about playing in GAA HQ.
“Honestly, I would think we’ve played some of our best hurling up there. If you look back at the Limerick game last year and even in the first half against Kilkenny, we were moving the ball really well, there was one or two goal chances we should have converted and we didn’t.
“But I think our movement and everything, it wasn’t any worse than anywhere else in the country. I think it’s just a bit unlucky that it’s happening in the semi-finals and quarter-finals in Croke Park but I don’t think anyone would fear playing there.
“If you asked us do we want to play there every match, we’d say ‘yeah’.”
Cork hurling is undergoing major changes since their championship exit with the news that John Meyler will not be seeking a third term as manager. However, another figure Cork GAA are losing from their backroom team is Doug Howlett who has returned to his native New Zealand following 11 years on the Emerald Isle.
Horgan believes the side have massively benefitted from his vast experience.
“Someone of his experience in any setup, any time he speaks, you’re all ears. He’s been there and done it on numerous occasions. He was basically sharing his experiences with us, and how he felt during certain situations and how he thought we were feeling coming up to games.
“It was brilliant working with him, just unfortunate we didn’t get another couple of weeks because he wasn’t going to go home until we were finished. I’d say he didn’t want to go home too early either.”