Kildare manager David Herity cited the depth of his panel as a key reason for their Christy Ring Cup success.
Kildare manager David Herity cited the depth of his panel as a key reason for their Christy Ring Cup success.

Panel depth the key for Kildare, says Herity


By Kevin Egan

Unlucky to be relegated from the Joe McDonagh Cup in 2021, Kildare started the 2022 season as the overwhelming favourites to win the Christy Ring Cup for a fourth time, and to bounce right back up to higher level competition.

That expectation created a new and different problem for team manager David Herity, as he had to ensure that his players kept their focus and maintained their high standards throughout the season, even as they continued to rack up big wins.

“Competitiveness on the panel was the big thing” said the former Kilkenny goalkeeper.

“We have 35 lads on the panel, every single one of them got minutes in league and championship. If you’re not performing, you’re not on the squad. The 15s v 15s for me were as competitive as when I was with Kilkenny, they had that level of aggression and intensity, no moaning and complaining, just getting on with it” he said after Saturday’s win.

“At the start of the year Christy Ring was definitely the number one objective. Now Kildare are facing into a 2023 season up in 2A (league) and Joe McDonagh Cup. It's fierce challenging, but fierce exciting for the whole county”.

Maintaining Division 2A status was no small achievement either, given that a chunk of that Allianz League campaign had to be played without the help of the Naas players, who themselves were involved in what turned out to be a successful bid for glory in the AIB All-Ireland intermediate championship. Herity spoke of how he knew he was working with deeply committed players when he spoke to them after their semi-final win over Tooreen in Ballinasloe.

“We had only 14 senior lads available for the Kehoe Cup against Carlow and again for the game against Westmeath, and the U-20s were brilliant coming in and supporting us, helping us through. All of this feeds into days like today when you have a panel of 26 and you don’t know who to bring on to the field because they’re all deserving of a run, and they all have a lot to contribute” he said.

“After Naas beat Tooreen and we knew that the lads were headed for an All-Ireland final here in Croke Park, I contacted each one of them that was in with Kildare and I asked them if they were going to be available for our game down in Kerry. Every one of them said that win or lose, they’d be there, barring injury of course.

“We lost in Tralee but there was a general good feeling about the panel then, both because we were all delighted for Naas, but also because the lads made it clear that they wanted to be part of ensuring we didn’t get relegated. Next time out we picked up a huge win up in Down, and the season kicked on from there”

Kildare captain Brian Byrne looks to evade the challenge of Mayo's Kenny Feeney in Saturday's Christy Ring Cup final.
Kildare captain Brian Byrne looks to evade the challenge of Mayo's Kenny Feeney in Saturday's Christy Ring Cup final.

Team captain Brian Byrne was one of those Naas players, nine of which saw action in Saturday's final, and he spoke of how their long road at club and county level has been made a lot easier by the success they’ve enjoyed along the way.

“It’s been a long road, between Covid and everything we seemed to run into competition after competition after competition, but thankfully we’ve been on the winning side of it, so that makes it that little bit easier” said Byrne.

The corner forward has now won two senior county hurling titles one senior county football title, not to mention Leinster and All-Ireland club honours, and a third Christy Ring Cup medal, all in the space of the last 12 months.

He singled out Saturday’s win as special because of the pressure they put on themselves to make sure that their stay in the Christy Ring Cup was a short one.

He said “It’s always good when you win in Croke park, but this one meant a little bit more.

“I think we put our heads on the chopping block saying that we wanted to be back in the Joe McDonagh, so if it didn't happen this year it was all down to us, it would have been our fault” he concluded.