JJ Delaney: Tipperary are the favourites for the All-Ireland this year 7 years ago

JJ Delaney: Tipperary are the favourites for the All-Ireland this year

Promises to be as tough on screen as he was on the pitch.

If Kilkenny hurling fans don't get the slightest pang of longing when they see JJ Delaney in his best three piece suit on Sky's GAA coverage this summer, then they must not be human.


The 33-year-old hung up his inter county boots last December, and is now set to be among the experts for the British broadcaster's second season of GAA coverage beginning next month.

The Fenians clubman spent his whole inter county career under the tutelage of Brian Cody. It's rare to hear of any former player with a bad word to say about the Kilkenny boss, while there is almost a sense of omerta around discussing the inner working of a Cody panel. The sales rep has no fear that he'll be seen as a soft touch on television in his analysis:

'If you try to bluff people, people will see right through that. To be honest, I know what these people go through from October/November on their own up to collective training in January, February and March.

'Everybody doesn't go out to play a bad game, if the ball doesn't break for them fair enough but I will give my honest opinion. There’s no point going on and not give your honest opinion. It’s not about cutting the back off anyone, it’s about giving your honest opinion. Everyone has their off-days as well so you understand everyone is human. An off-day is just one day, you set off and go again.'

The hurling championship got underway just this past weekend, but for many the real business of deciding who may take home Liam McCarthy in September will begin with the Munster Championship opener later this month between Clare and Limerick.


Looking ahead towards the resumption of hostilities in both Munster and Leinster, who does Delaney feel is best poised to challenge the Cats grip on the trophy?

'Tipperary and Kilkenny will obviously be there or thereabouts. You look at Tipperary in the league and they’re probably a small step ahead Kilkenny at the moment, but that’s not to say Kilkenny can’t catch up in the summer.'

'Because they were missing the Ballyhale lads, they were missing Conor Fogarty, Eoin Larkin and Richie Power. So you get all them back and look at where they were this time last year, they’ve a chance like anyone else. Tipperary I think are the favourites for this year.'

JJ Delaney 4/8/2014

A new side that may have a lot to say in this years championship could be Allianz League champions Waterford who were hardly even tipped to emerge from Division 1B this year. How does the former multiple All-Star feel his neighbours in the south east will fare with their unique defensive system?


'No doubt about it, the system Waterford are playing is a high skill, high pace, high fitness type of a game. There are four or five lads around the middle third of the field who are breaking the opponents’ half-back line. And if they’re not breaking through, they are hitting diagonal ball into Maurice Shanahan in the full-forward line. They have a template and every single player knows their jobs. Even the subs who come on.'

'They have a system and everyone is buying into that system – I think that’s massive. In any given game whether hurling, Gaelic, soccer or rugby, if you have a team and the players buying into a system, and every player knows their role in that system, then you’ve a massive chance of winning any game.'

Delaney himself is among a number of high profile Kilkenny players to quit the inter county scene after last year's 35th All-Ireland triumph for the stripey men. His former side struggled badly in the league as they narrowly avoided relegation to Division 1B with a win over Clare in Nowlan Park. Transition is the buzz word around a team that has lost almost 50 All-Ireland medalists, and Delaney agrees that there is no easy solutions for the management.

'It’s a huge challenge for Brian and the players. I’ve seen over the past two or three years inside the Kilkenny dressing-room, there are lads stepping up to the mark again unknown to themselves. They’re taking leadership, the likes of TJ Reid and Richie Hogan, the last couple of years and didn’t realise it. So when we’re gone, there;’s good people stepping into our shoes and hoping to do better than we did as well. Have no fear this year about Kilkenny.'

Seamus Callanan with JJ Delaney 27/9/2014


Delaney had made the full back slot his own over the last number of years since the departure of Noel Hockey. The mantle of the famous number three jersey looks now to fall between Joey Holden and Paul Murphy. Delaney feels both men will probably get chances to hold the edge of the square

'It will be interesting to see. The in-house trainings, they’ll have Paul Murphy at one end and Joey Holden at the other and it’s between the two of them. Whoever is going to be full-back, the other will be in the corner anyway. It all depends on who is showing form coming up to the first round of the championship. We have club league this weekend and that will have a bearing too, Brian looks at that. Whoever does take it over, it will be for this year, next year and for the next four or five years ahead of them. It’s a learning curve but whoever does settle down and get it will have it for four or fives years.'

'In the last couple of years a lot of team are playing a two-man full-forward line so there is a hell of a lot more space in the full-back line compared to three or four years ago. So while you have to attack some ball, you have to be patient in the tackle as well.'

'If you can’t block him, shepherd him out and let him shoot rather than jumping in at him, concede a free and straight over the bar. You’d nearly be surprised when a freetaker misses a free now. So when you do foul, it’s a point against you.'

Delaney will be hoping his transition from a player to a pundit is not quite as difficult as that facing the Kilkenny set up in trying to replace arguably the greatest defender of his generation.