Joey Holden - living proof that the trusty corner back is taken for granted 4 months ago

Joey Holden - living proof that the trusty corner back is taken for granted

We all know who's actually underrated now.

Underrated is an over-used label. More often than not, 'underrated' players become overrated just because it's said so much about them.

The best players are barely ever underrated anyway. Not in this day and age. They're the ones who stand out so much because of their jaw-dropping skills and the impressive things they do. It makes them all the more impossible to ignore.

But a quiet one can always go undetected. An unsung hero can still avoid the mic.

Joey Holden is living proof. He's been avoiding it for a couple of years now. At first, it was understandable. Now it's bordering on the ridiculous.

The reason is clear though.

Holden isn't flashy. He's skinny and he's hardly the most graceful hurler there is. You won't see him fist-pumping, scrapping or showboating.

But it's the consistency that hood-winks you. That green helmet coming out with the ball is a given. The short-pass, handpass or clearance is never a Rock O'Sullivan moment. But it always happens. And that's why you expect nothing else.

And that's why we don't appreciate enough. It's all a shame on us, really.

The Ballyhale Shamrock was a late a bloomer. Having not made minor or under-21 squads in Kilkenny, Holden arrived in 2014 as a quantity unknown.

He didn't even know himself.

"Some lads are slower than others and I was one of the slow ones," he said to us a couple of months ago with a shrug of the shoulders.

"I didn’t think I was at that level when I was brought into the Kilkenny panel either...I was in training and I still didn’t think I was up to it..."

So you can imagine what they thought outside the circle.

A weak-link was the main one.

Maybe he was for a while. There were some tough days. He was straight into it in 2014. No trial runs. No free shots. He started in the epic drawn All-Ireland final against Tipp. Was taken off and dropped for the replay. Did alright off the bench mind.

"Next thing you’re wearing number five, then you’re like, right well I will try hold onto this until the next day. Then the next day you could be getting 17 - but you’ve learned so much up to there, don’t just throw it away..."

Seamus Callanan took him for 0-9 from play in the 2016 final. Holden had loads to prove but he wasn't going anywhere.

Since then, he's grew into that jersey and now he's one of the best. It's why, almost four years on, that Callanan's is the only name they can think of when trying to catch him out.

There are few forwards who have gotten the better of Kilkenny's number four.

And when you think about Joey Holden now, it's moments like that point against Galway which spring to mind. That block on Graham Mulcahy that left him pumping.

But unflinching. That's Joey Holden stuff.

"Things just started clicking, you probably train so hard that these things just become automatic. I suppose it’s when you’re not thinking sometimes, that’s when you’re at your best," says the man himself.

Now, at 29, he's one of the most reliable defenders around. A key, understated cog in the Kilkenny defence, 2019 was his best year yet.

Peerless in Leinster. Battling against Cork when Kilkenny's last line were under siege and the same in the final. Heroic doesn't cut it for the Limerick game.

It's just hard to believe that there were 18 defenders better than him.