Kilkenny warm up exactly what every GAA player wants
Easy does it.
Kilkenny warmed up for last Sunday's National Hurling League final clash with Tipperary like the always do.
On the stroke of 3.00, team captain Cillian Buckley led his troops out onto their patch in front of an excited Nowlan Park crowd.
The sun was hanging high in the sky over the sleek, tightly cut pitch. The Kilkenny lads strode over the shiny turf, some of them jumping into the air every few strides, some of them rolling sliotars out in front of themselves which they would go onto pick up before selling a dummy to an invisible tackler.
Others took shots at the goals, every action being performed at a measured, relaxed pace. There were no orders, there weren't even any cones or bollards set up. It was all natural. Everything was being done at their own pace. Every man in a black and amber jersey was easing themselves into the occasion.
Brian Cody surveyed proceedings but he wasn't involved. He didn't need to be. He had a word in the ear of a few of the younger players but he was relaxed too.
After a while, they broke into pairs across the pitch. It was one facing one with both men around ten yards in from the sideline.
Just as a pair of lads out for a few pucks in the local club pitch of a summer's evening would do, the lads zipped balls head height into each other's path.
John Donnelly caught the eye. The Thomastown club man sauntered around the place, his wrists swinging and his strike pinging.
He was getting his eye in, getting into the groove of lacing that ball on the sweet spot. His striking was so loose but so crisp. He manipulated the ball to his next move with every killer touch. He was just loosening up. This wasn't the battle.
He and his partner began lobbing high balls at each other, they drilled low balls across. It was all like an episode of freestyle hurling.
This is what hurlers do. Tackle bags, sprinting, press ups and knotty drills all sound good and look good but that's not what a player needs before a game. There are a few lads who like to be hopping off the ground but most lads just want to be at ease.
That's because most GAA players are volatile beasts. They can turn on the fire when they want but there has to be a purpose for that. The game is the purpose. The game is always the purpose. When the whistle blows and the ball is thrown in, players are ready for battle and just as the stakes ramp up the conviction does too.
But you don't need to wage war before the war begins. There is no point in jumping the gun.
You don't need lads taking strips out of each other, you don't need lads to be blowing hard, to be feeling their chests after performing press-ups, you want lads to be in their zone.
Brian Cody gave a brilliant interview to Tim Moynihan on Radio Kerry after Sunday's League final. In it, he dismissed the want of some coaches to over complicate things to justify themselves. Coaches all over are doing it.
"It's often seen that coaching is something where you have to set up a drill for with cones and all sorts of stuff and make it look very elaborate. I don't think its necessary always to do things like that," he said.
"I think sometimes maybe, coaches are maybe maintaining the level of their own importance ... going to all sorts of lengths to show how much they know themselves."
This isn't Cody's way. This isn't the Kilkenny way.
After the field length striking, the panel broke into ten groups on the endline and 21 facing each other. The most basic drill in the book, they hand-passed across and followed their pass. They struck across and followed their pass the same way under-12s would do in clubs all over Ireland of a Friday night.
Tipperary's warm-up didn't have much more to it. Then you've club players all over looking and feeling like they've ran a marathon and translated a double Dutch novel before the ball is thrown in.
Just remember, it's all about the game.
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