David Hennessy spoke to Cillian Buckley, All-Ireland-winning half back with Kilkenny, about how Galway can punish a lack of concentration and why Kilkenny are looking to finish the job at the first time of asking
“If it’s taught us any lesson, it’s that Galway never give in,” Kilkenny half back Cillian Buckley tells The Irish World. Cillian remembers a tough battle that Brian Cody’s conquering Kilkenny team had with the Tribesmen. Not the 2012 final, Cillian talks about their meeting last year in the Leinster semi-final when Kilkenny looked to be cruising up until the final minutes only for three late Galway goals to force a replay.
“I think we were nine points up with five minutes to go that day so that was a fault on our own behalf, we let it slip and thank God, we were lucky enough to get a second chance at it and came out on the right side the second day. But look, that’s not something you can be depending on every day so you would hope that we would get the job done the first day this time but you definitely have to be prepared for whatever Galway bring.”
Two Kilkenny backs lost their place in the Kilkenny team (one has not featured since) for allowing Galway hit 3-3 in that match and force a replay, despite Kilkenny being so in control earlier on. Asked why it happened, Cillian, who played in both the first game and replay, says: “I suppose it might have been a lack of concentration and after 60 minutes of an intense match like that against a team like Galway, any lapse in concentration and, it was proved, they’ll punish us: That’s what happened on the day.
“I suppose, as I said, it’s a lesson learned. Not that we ever try to take our foot off the pedal. We know as much as anyone that it’s 70 minutes for a reason, it takes 70 minutes to win and lose a match and look, it goes back to the sheer class Galway have, you take one eye off them and they’ll have three goals against you and that’s what happened that day. Hopefully, it’s a lesson learned.”
Buckley has learned lessons at the hands of Galway before. Still only 23, he came into the Kilkenny team in 2012. Although Kilkenny claimed the All-Ireland that year, it was only after a replay and Galway had been allowed to snatch their provincial crown.
It was Galway that were on top in the first period before Henry Shefflin led the fight back. Much stronger in the second game, it never looked like the cup was going anywhere other than Kilkenny in the replay.
Why was there such a huge difference in Kilkenny in both matches? “Every day brings it’s own challenges and you can’t compare like with like each day.
“I suppose Galway definitely did fire the first day and I suppose we were sluggish out of the traps but luckily we had the leaders that day, back then it was Henry Shefflin and Brian Hogan who dug us out of a hole in the second half of the drawn All-Ireland and we’ll be looking for the same again.
“We have huge leaders this year in Joey Holden, TJ Reid and Richie Hogan, those kind of players. We’ll be looking towards them to lead the team and hopefully (we can) follow on and give them the support. When you have that kind of leadership within the group, you would hope that if you do encounter a tough match like three years ago, you would have enough to come out the right side of it.”
Many expected to see Kilkenny and Tipperary meet again in yet another final this year. If they had, it would have been for the fourth time in seven years. However, if Galway were being written off elsewhere, that certainly wasn’t the case in the Kilkenny camp: “People were tipping Tipperary I suppose before the day (semi-final) given their form in Munster but I suppose having played Galway earlier on in the year, we know the different challenges they bring with their physicality and sheer hunger for the game so it was no surprise that Galway came out on top, not to us in Kilkenny anyway. They seem to be a different team to what we came up against in July in a Leinster final so it’s going to be a huge challenge for us but one that we’re looking forward to taking on.”
Despite goals from Joe Canning and Jason Flynn, Kilkenny would win that Leinster final comfortably enough in the end with TJ Reid finding the net.
For the full interview, see next week’s Irish World.