By David Hennessy
London got a visit from hurling royalty at the weekend when Kilkenny legend DJ Carey was a guest of the Kilkenny Supporters Club London Branch. DJ answered questions and met fans at the Gipsy Hill Tavern on Saturday evening before coming to The White Horse in Peckham on Sunday.
A renowned forward for The Cats, DJ wore the black and amber from 1990 to 2005, winning five All Irelands and is regarded as one of the best hurlers of all time. DJ earned nine All Stars in his career and is Kilkenny’s third highest scorer of all time (behind Eddie Keher and Henry Shefflin). He also enjoyed success in handball combining with Ducksie Walsh in doubles. The Young Irelands club man spoke about his forthcoming book, his successful career and of course the current Kilkenny team who have failed to make the semi-final of the All-Ireland for the first time since 1996.
When asked why Brian Cody’s team were not firing this year, Carey pointed fourteen man Kilkenny were only five points behind Cork: “They fired for the last ten years and you have one or two bad days and all of a sudden.. Look, we’re not a bad team overnight. We’re a team with an awful lot of miles on the clock. They’re absolutely great hurlers who deserve all our full support and credit. I would love to see these guys getting a big, long huge rest.
“At the end of the day Dublin and Cork, the two teams who beat us this year, are in an All-Ireland semi-final and one of them could potentially win it and yet there was barely a puck of a ball in it in either game. Wrongfully and totally wrongfully, we had Henry Shefflin sent off. I’m not saying we would have beaten cork but wrongfully he was sent off so you never know.”
Henry Shefflin received a harsh red card in Kilkenny’s quarter-final defeat to Cork. Asked if we will see Kilkenny’s talisman from Ballyhale return, Carey said: “I hope we’ll see Henry back next year. He’s had two really bad years with injuries. He came back last year and had a great All-Ireland final but this year he really, really struggled with injuries. I would love to see him have one more year injury free because with his dedication and the way he trains, I think we could have a very big year from him.”
However, at 34 years old, Shefflin is surely nearing the end. Looking ahead to life after Henry, DJ says: “Someone will take over. It comes to an end of an era and it’s time then for Richie Hogan or Richie Power, TJ Reid, Walter Walsh. Walter Walsh was man of the match in an All Ireland final. Richie Power’s a great player, Eoin Larkin: Great player. Richie Hogan: Great player. There are lads who will just have to take over, it’s as simple as that.”
Who does DJ see lifting Liam McCarthy now that the defending champions are out? “Tough call. Any one of the four teams are there or thereabouts. I’m kind of traditional. I would like to see one of the provincial champions winning it and obviously being Leinster, I would like to see Dublin winning it but if Limerick won, it would be great. I played half my career in a knock out championship game where if you were beaten, you were gone so I would like to see a team that’s actually winning continuing to win.”
While Carey is currently in charge of his club Young Irelands in Gowran, his answer was an unequivocal no when asked if he had a desire to manage The Cats in the future? “I don’t have any ambition of managing Kilkenny. Brian Cody has been perfect for the job. He doesn’t have to meet people on a daily basis, he’s a school teacher by trade. He’s a couple of months off during the summer. I’m someone who’s more out in public and you cannot be talking about players out on the road or out in public and I think it suits someone in a job like Brian to be honest.”
Liam McCarthy is buried in South London and the Kilkenny Supporters Club has taken the famous cup along with Kilkenny players such as Eoin Larkin and Paul Murphy to the resting place of one of GAA’s founding fathers. It was on this trip that DJ realised Liam was buried here and said: “There’s so many great stalwarts of Irish history that unfortunately the history is not well enough known. We can criticise Croke Park an awful lot and I certainly would be one of their biggest critics but I don’t think they do (enough to promote the history).”
DJ will be providing hurling fans with an insight into the Kilkenny team when he releases a book in October: “I suppose for many years I’ve been asked to write a book and write a book and write a book and I’ve declined and declined. It came back this year and I suppose it’s either one is released unauthorised or do my own so I done my own.”
The GAA community were sad to hear DJ went into hospital last year with heart problems before the medical staff discovered blood clots that required surgery. Asked if his health worries are behind him, the former hurling star answers: “Yeah, I had two brain surgeries last year and I got the all clear actually just two weeks ago. Healthwise, I’m fine. It’s one of these things, a scare. I would have been as fit as anyone in the country for my age. I don’t drink or smoke and one of the injuries was the result of getting belts of hurls over the years down on the head and I developed blood clots. At the end of the day I’m fine, it’s sorted. It’s just onwards and upwards.”
Excellent entertainment was provided at The White Horse by Keltic Fire.
For the full feature, see the August 10 print edition of The Irish World.
The Kilkenny Supporters Club London Branch is recruiting new members. You don’t have to be from Kilkenny. If you would like to get involved, you can call Pat Byrne on 07711851836. You can also find the club on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cmonthecats.