The latter stages of the second half of the All-Ireland final must have been torturous for Anthony Cunningham. But he did not let his inner turmoil betray him, battling through the pain alongside his players.
‘We win together, and lose together’. That is the mantra of a real fellowship and, even in his initial analysis of the game, Cunningham spoke with rationality and pride. “We had very see-saw first half, but the boys fought back tremendously. We’re very proud of them. This team is on an upward curve, and the signs look extremely good for them.”
The former Garycastle manager said teams needed breaks when facing Kilkenny. “You need the breaks if you want to beat Kilkenny. They’re a fine team, they’re tremendous athletes and hurlers, but we have nothing but praise for our players.”
Cunningham and his background team were unanimous in saying their first priority will be to assess the year before facing into the next campaign.
He also commended the medical background staff for their efforts in preparing an injured James Skehill for the game. “The medical team were excellent in working with James. He got a knock and that happens. But James will be back.”
His background staff were pragmatic in explaining the secret behind Kilkenny’s continuous conveyor belt of talent “Their work is sustained over time. They introduce the younger players into a stable process. We have achieved a lot this year and we are the second best team to the best team of all time. It was a risk taking a young team to Croke Park to play Kilkenny, but this is a learning curve for us.”