Former Kilkenny defender turned pundit, Jackie Tyrrell, is as excited as anyone for Saturday’s Leinster SHC semi-final between his old side and Wexford.
After an illustrious inter-county career in black and amber, where he amassed nine All Ireland titles, eleven Leinster championship wins and was selected as an All Star four times, the former corner back is set for his first summer not involved with the Kilkenny camp since 2003, having retired from inter-county hurling last year. In what is a tough transition for any legend to make from player to spectator, Tyrrell has kept himself busy with a new role in the media as well as continuing to line out for his club as he prepares for his first Kilkenny championship match from the other side of the fence in a decade-and-a-half.
Ahead of this weekend’s crunch clash with the Model County, Tyrrell admitted when speaking to the Independent that it is these types of games that would make an ex-stalwart miss lining out for their county on big championship days.
Less than a year removed from the Kilkenny set-up, the 34-year-old admits that he would love to be a part of this Kilkenny-Wexford hype train, which has been building ever since the league quarter-final, from the inside looking out rather than the other way around.
“Sure you would (love to be involved), it’s the championship and it’s down in Wexford Park and you can almost hear and smell the atmosphere coming already.
“You can’t beat big games where there’s a massive interest from the public,” he said.
On that huge public interest in this duel, we have already seen the scramble for tickets reach unprecedented heights in Wexford, and Tyrrell admits that the demand is the exact same in Kilkenny.
“I’ve never got so many ticket requests, you’re normally trying to give away tickets for the first round!
“People are ringing you up looking for tickets so it’s definitely captured the imagination of people in Kilkenny and the general public.”
The James Stephens clubman is optimistic about the Cats chances this weekend, feeling that they will have learned more from that league quarter-final defeat than the Yellowbelies did in victory. Unless Davy Fitz has a secret master tactic up his sleeve for Saturday, Brian Cody’s charges should be much better prepared for the threat facing them than they were back in April.
“It’s prime conditions for it. (They had) a mixed bag of a league and probably an unsettled team and here’s a chance to make a real statement.
“They looked stunned, and almost as if they were saying, ‘God, Wexford have a sweeper’ – everyone knew Wexford were going to have a sweeper. It’s almost like they didn’t prepare for a sweeper.
“Maybe Brian intentionally did that knowing that the June 10 isn’t too far away. Probably said, ‘Right lads, we’ll have to do a bit more on preparing who is going to be our sweeper, how we distribute the ball and things like that’.
“I suppose the only thing about it, Brian learned more out of that day than Davy Fitz which I think could be the big factor come the end of June.”
With a victory over Davy’s Wexford this weekend granting a place in the Leinster final, and coming off the back of a reasonably muted league campaign where the world was not set alight in typical Kilkenny fashion, Cody’s side find themselves in the unusual position of coming in under the radar in terms of being Liam McCarthy Cup contenders. This should suit the Noresiders down to the ground, and with rumours of trouble in rival camps elsewhere, are the Cats poised to strike again in 2017?
“The lads are probably hearing the Tipperary things as well and thinking, ‘God lads, it’s set up for someone to come and seize the All-Ireland’. No better team than Kilkenny to do that,” stated Tyrrell.
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