"There's no point in hitting it away" - Holden on the changing game in the full back line 3 months ago

"There's no point in hitting it away" - Holden on the changing game in the full back line

"Not too long ago, it was just get the ball and drive it, and then they'd drive it back..."

In ten years, hurling has changed immeasurably.

An impatient Joey Holden was knocking on the Kilkenny door at the start of the last decade, when the Cats and Tipperary were in the middle of hurling's most memorable rivalry, but if he was planning to emulate his game around the style of 2010, he'd have got a fair few bollockings in the years to come.

The games were legendary, the players were class and the game-plans were simple. Kilkenny's was based on the age-old approach of winning your own ball and minding your own station.

Hurling has moved with the times and ten years on, the game-plans are detailed and the orders are almost military-like. Long, lamped balls are a thing of the past and now corner backs have plenty more to contend with.

Short-stick passes, pass and move. Short puck-outs, to follow or not to follow a drifting forward. It's a different, much more tactical game these days.

"Did you ever watch them classic GAA games, looking back at them - that’s when you really see how much it has evolved," says Holden.

"Not too long ago either, you just get the ball, turn and pump it up. That’s when you really see how much it’s changed, when you’re involved, you don’t really see it as much, you’re just doing it. But Jesus, when you look back on some of them games, like the Tipp-Kilkenny games around 2010 - it was just get the ball and drive it," he says at the launch of Avonmore Protein Gold.

"There was a different dynamic to the game but the use of the ball has changed. The core aspects are still the same but them small changes make a big difference..."

"Now there’s so much movement, and when you get on the ball, there’s no point in hitting it away. You’d have to be clever in the type of ball you play..."

Corner backs won't get away with stopping, they must be able to hurl too. Another development is the rise in prominence of the drifting forward and with players able to score from their own 65, it ensures corner backs have plenty of decisions to make in a game.

"I suppose it was just stand in your corner and whatever balls come into your corner, you deal with..."

"The ball travels a lot further too. If your forwards are working back and the ball pops out, they’ll have no problem scoring. Maybe, that’s down to good strikers or the ball but they can score from a fair distance out..."

Fresh from a second All-Ireland club title in a row, Holden and his Ballyhale teammates are settling back into the rigours of Kilkenny training now. Eoin Cody has been added to the panel this year, and Holden feels he has the skills and the mentality to make it at the top grade.

"He has all the skills for it. It's a big jump up when you go in. It takes a lot of hard work. When I first went in, I would have felt my legs weren't as strong as I thought they were - it might take a season or two [to get to the right level]. He's in there now training away. He has all the skills and all the attributes. It doesn't just happen, it takes a lot of hard work in order to get that to the next level. That's where he's at now.

"Knowing Eoin's character, he'll try to work as hard as he can and get up there. Ah yeah, he's a good lad, he's getting there. I'd say it was a bit of a shock coming in first. We'll look after him and bring him along with us. Not so much a dig out but just make him comfortable. In a changing room, it's just about involving him in a bit of slagging and that kind of thing, let him settle in quick enough."

Shane Walsh of Tullaroan is another forward who's been added to the Kilkenny panel and Holden and the Kilkenny team will welcome the fresh faces in with some good old-fashioned dressing room slagging.

"The younger lads have been in various underage groups so it's easier for them coming. The dig out is making sure they're getting slagged. That's what makes people comfortable: the banter. Everyone knows how to hurl. When you go out on the hurling field, you know what to do, sometimes it's in the dressing room that you don't know what to do..."

As for Ballyhale, Holden understands Henry Shefflin's decision to step down and is exciting to work under their new manager James O'Connor, who managed Fr O'Neill's to the All-Ireland intermediate final.

"The big focus was on the match, Henry celebrated a few days with us as well. He met us then later that week to tell us he was stepping down. I don't think any of it dampened the spirits, it was just when he explained his reasons why. Family commitments, he has five young kids and I think everyone understood the big commitment he had put into it. He said when he took over he would do two or three years, we didn't expect that it would be two full on years as it was. Henry is the type of manager or character who is all in or not in at all. There is no half measures. It is a big commitment. I think he just wants to enjoy this summer with his family before he potentially looks at future jobs, whatever he wants to go into then..."

But few would put it past the Shamrocks to continue their remarkable success under the new management, and Holden puts their tradition down to the families that have gone before them, and the calibre of players you're training and playing alongside.

"Tradition and that was always hurling in Ballyhale. From a young age people were always hurling. Then in most clubs from Kilkenny people from a young age are hurling. It is hard to know and put your finger on it. In the breeding of the families that have gone before you the skills are handed down. Playing with players of high calibre. I would have played with Henry and marked Henry, you learn so much from marking these type of players. You are just thrown in at the deep end to see if you can sink or swim, if you can swim a small bit you can start to get better as it goes along. That helps an awful lot..."

Kilkenny hurler Joey Holden is pictured at the launch of Avonmore Protein Gold. A great-tasting chocolate flavoured milk drink containing 33g of protein per 500ml serving, including 20g of quality Whey protein. Avonmore Protein Gold is available in 500ml pack and will retail at €1.59 and can be used by those who wish to include additional protein in their diet. Protein contributes to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass and hardworking muscles need protein.