Derek Lyng: 'We can be a challenge for everybody else'
By Cian O'Connell
During the past two decades Kilkenny's story has been about standards and frequent September success. So when the striped team exited the 2017 Championship in July it was a significant setback.
Selector Derek Lyng, though, believes that Kilkenny can respond in the coming months. "The perception would be that we are in transition," Lyng says.
"But again, in 2013, Cork beat us, I think that was July as well, All-Ireland quarter-finals and the following year we came back strongly. That's not to say we're going to win the All-Ireland next year, I'm certainly not saying that.
"But I think we have enough confidence in the players we have that we can maximise their potential and that we can do something and be a challenge for everybody else. "That's certainly the approach we're taking and no effort will be spared."
Lyng also believes that more counties can now be classed as genuine contenders compared to Kilkenny's dominant days. "There are certainly a lot more now as well," Lyng admits.
"And a lot of those teams have had strong underage success. We probably haven't been as successful at Under 21 level as we would have liked over the last 10 years.
"This year (2017), we got to the final, would have been disappointed to lose. So yeah, like I said, it's very rare where two or three teams are at the top for a lengthy period of time.
"Eventually other teams catch up and that's certainly happened now. Look, that's the challenge and we have to get on with it. "It's good for the game, more teams involved and I think it's a Championship that everyone is looking forward to."
Kilkenny are dealing with further retirements so Lyng acknowledges that an element of change is going on. "There is," Lyng replies. "We didn't perform to the levels that we'd expected in Kilkenny last year, definitely not.
"That's, as I said, that's just the nature of it. It's very competitive. If you look at the Championship last year, this year just gone, it was massively competitive.
"You have Clare, Cork, Tipperary, Galway, Dublin, Limerick Under 21 champions now and of course Wexford. So everybody will fancy beating each other now, that's the way it is.
"Your preparation has to be spot on. You need a bit of luck with injuries. It's a challenge, but really looking forward to it."
How much of a shock was it to Kilkenny exiting the Championship early last year? “I think when you're playing the games you're not looking at it that way,” Lyng says.
“The game itself, we played Waterford, it was a great game, I think the players did really well to come back in normal time, showed great resilience to do that.
“Into extra-time then and Waterford showed that they were the better team on the day. They certainly were and they nearly went on and won the All-Ireland after that.
“It was disappointing to be out so early, something we haven't been used to over the last few years, but that's the way it is, that's sport.
“We've no divine right to be in All-Ireland finals, semi-finals, every year. You have to earn that right and we just didn't do it.” Returning to that arena is Kilkenny’s mission in 2018.