DJ Carey delighted to be involved with Kilkenny in 2020
By Cian O’Connell
On the eve of the new hurling year DJ Carey is excited about Kilkenny’s possibilities.
The totemic Carey has joined Brian Cody’s backroom team for the 2020 campaign and is relishing the opportunity of being involved at senior inter-county level once more.
“It is something to really look forward to at the moment, Kilkenny have just started back, it is all gym based at the moment, we will look forward to getting into the hurling after Christmas,” says the highly regarded Carey, who attended the Top Oil Leinster GAA Corn Uí Dhúill Hurling Championship launch.
In recent years Carey has enjoyed managing Carlow IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup, while also taking charge of the Kilkenny Under 20 outfit.
“My role is slightly different, I have been manager with most of the teams I have been involved with,” Carey remarks about his role as selector under Cody. “In terms of hands on coaching I haven't been doing an awful lot so this will be a bit different.
“I would envisage that I will be doing more coaching, Brian is obviously the boss. Martin Comerford, James McGarry, and I will be in there coaching and hopefully making a bit of a difference.”
Throughout the past two decades Cody has changed his selectors and Carey is delighted to be assisting with the black and amber.
“I suppose when a man is there so long he probably has to freshen things up every so often otherwise it does get stale,” Carey adds.
“From the point of Derek and Mick Dempsey going, they were around a while too so they probably wanted to freshen themselves up a bit also.
“I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it, to see where it will take us. It is a new adventure for me, I played the game, I'm not any sort of a qualified coach or anything, I'm just bringing my own experience and thoughts to it more than anything else. We will see where that leads us.”
Has the game altered dramatically since Carey retired from playing with Kilkenny? “I'm not sure there is too much made of tactics, but there is certainly an awful lot more made of tactics,” Carey replies.
“It is very much part of the game now, the way the game is going Kilkenny, no different than anyone else, have to try to keep ahead or bring something new in. Whatever that is we need to do it. Limerick are very strong, Tipp are All Ireland champions, they are very strong, Cork are coming good.
“A lot of teams are right up there at the top table now. You have Wexford, Galway, Dublin, who are serious hurling teams in Leinster.
“Of old Kilkenny hadn't that, they hadn't Galway, while Wexford and Offaly struggled a bit. The Leinster Championship is a ding dong battle, we got out of it by the skin of our teeth, and then got to an All Ireland Final.”
With so many counties classed as real contenders for the Liam MacCarthy Cup, Carey acknowledges it is a particularly interesting time for the sport. “I think it is very open, you have very, very good teams,” Carey admits.
“The only thing I'd say on it however close it was and open years ago the big difference is one match of old, you were gone. Now teams have a second chance of improving and getting back into the Championship. That even makes it more competitive and more open.”
During the past two campaigns Cody has demonstrated a real willingness and ability to integrate young talent into the Kilkenny set-up.
“Yeah, I suppose that experience is great and we have a lot of lads playing Fitzgibbon hurling at a high level,” Carey remarks.
“You need that because some of the young best hurlers in the country and some not so young are still playing Fitzgibbon hurling. For players to be competing at the highest level that is what we need. We can't depend on TJ Reid, Padraig Walsh, Cillian Buckley or any of these players forever.
“Kilkenny needs new players coming along, we need players at a high level and that is definitely the next level to senior inter-county hurling.”
Undoubtedly the All Ireland Final loss to rivals Tipperary hurt deeply, but significant experience was acquired by an emerging crop of Kilkenny hurlers throughout 2019.
“There is no doubt about that, I still don't think we would have won an All Ireland, but I think it would have been very, very competitive if the sending off didn't happen, but the sending off did happen,” Carey says referring to Richie Hogan’s red card in August.
“Tipperary ran out big winners in the end, but from our point of view being in an All Ireland final, even though it was disappointing to lose it, we beat Cork and Limerick along the way in high end games.
“Galway we lost to by a point and there was little or nothing between ourselves and Wexford in a couple of games. We are very, very competitive, we won't be different than anyone else. We will be looking for that edge next year.”