DCU’s Padraig Breheny may not have seen action in last month’s All-Ireland final, but as he tells Will Slattery, his first year with the Galway senior hurling panel was a special one nonetheless.
Padraig Breheny understands more than most how much things can change in a year. A little over 12 months ago he was preparing for an All-Ireland minor final where he would win both the trophy and the Man of the Match award. Fast forward to the second Sunday in September this year and the DCU student was one of a select few involved with the Galway panel for the senior showpiece.
The differences in preparing for a minor and senior final are a lot like the differences in preparing for the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, the former seems your most daunting experience to date while the latter commands far greater hype and lasting importance.
“It was strange watching the minor final knowing that a year before that was me, but the experience of being involved in a senior final was great. I found there was a huge difference in preparation. There was a lot of hype compared to the minor final. Everywhere you went people would be asking you about the panel and if there were any injuries. And after the drawn game the hype got even greater, but I think the management team did a good job of controlling it.” said Breheny.
Joining a senior squad at such a young age could prove an overwhelming experience, especially when that squad contains someone of the talent and fame as Joe Canning. This was a season where Canning put it all together on the big stage and the hype surrounded him accordingly. And despite being new to the panel, Canning and the other senior players welcomed Breheny into the team.
“It was daunting at first, you’re not used to training with people you were watching your whole life but the experienced players were the first to come up to me and make me feel welcome. Training with Joe was one of the biggest things to get used to. The first thing people ask me is about Joe. Before the final everyone was coming up to me and asking whether he was injured. In matches he just comes out with things that leave you thinking how in the world did he do that”, said Breheny.
This year’s drawn final was about as good as hurling gets. You had Shefflin vs Canning in a dual of two of the games’ finest. And while the back and forth nature is very exciting for the fans, the players on the sideline need to maintain a certain detachment from the excitement.
“The management is always telling us that we’re not there as fans, we’re there as players so you can’t really enjoy the game. The game was an epic encounter even though some people thought the final would be a bit one-sided, but we showed we could match Kilkenny. Afterwards there were players with their heads in their hands saying we’ve blown it and there were others who were really upbeat about our chances in the replay. Hopefully we can get back there again next year and I can be more involved.”
For many, the final replay marked the emergence of Walter Walsh. Among casual fans, Walsh, a former DCU student, was an unknown quantity and the ease with which he fitted into the Kilkenny team left you thinking that if a sliotar was pucked down the main street in Kilkenny City, whoever it landed beside could do a job for them at corner forward. However, having played against Walsh in this year’s U-21 Championship, Breheny was aware of the threat he posed.
“We knew from the U-21s how good he was, but it was a gamble from Cody to start Walter Walsh.
He came into the game under very little pressure and he thrived on that. We knew how much of a threat he was, but on the day we couldn’t stop him.”
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