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'I've often been told that Kilkenny was the start of the sweeper system'

DJ Carey has been appointed as the new manager of the Kilkenny U21 team.

DJ CAREY NEVER had any designs on landing a management job in Kilkenny hurling.

DJ Carey raises the Liam McCarthy Cup DJ Carey pictured at the 2003 All-Ireland SHC final. Source: INPHO

It might be the traditional movements of some former inter-county stars, but DJ Carey never intended to follow any such pattern.

He was content with his new life as a supporter, but as it turned out, the sport still had a role for him as the new manager of the Kilkenny U21s.

And as Carey puts it ‘you get dragged into it.’

Sometimes you get a little bit more involved with your club,” he tells The42, ”and you get the taste for it.”

The five-time senior All-Ireland winner is not entirely new to this scene having already worked on the underage football circuit in Kilkenny.

He has also spent the last four years in charge of the Fitzgibbon Cup Carlow IT team, a position he intends to hold onto when he takes over the Kilkenny U21s.

The county board extended the offer to him after Eddie Brennan stepped down, but with two sons who are eligible for the U21 grade, he needed time to mull over the offer.

“There’s the other side to that in the sense of are there other people to take it on, and from my point of view personally, I have two guys who are U21.

“One lad was on the Kilkenny Intermediate team this year (Seán) and the other fella was on the Kilkenny minor team (Michael) so with the possibility of the U21 grade going to U20 in 2019, there are things there that I had to seriously think about and that would have been one of them.

Sean Carey Seán Carey. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s up to themselves, they will have a chance when we have trials, as will everyone else. Hopefully everyone will have a good chance to perform.”

Kilkenny picked up the Leinster U21 title this year and appeared in the All-Ireland final, where they lost out to Limerick.

The county’s search for a first All-Ireland U21 crown since 2008 edges into its 10th year, but Carey knows that they are still in the mix.

The sweeper system was a prominent feature in the senior hurling campaign this year, and Carey believes that despite the preference for traditional tactics in Kilkenny, they will have to adapt to those changes at all levels of the game.

“The sweeper system is in to stay and there’ll be a team next year or the year after that who will come along to counter act (it).

I’ve often been told that Kilkenny was the start of the sweeper system and I’ve often asked people to tell me where that has happened.

“But on the other side, when Kilkenny needed to stop Cork’s short puck-outs in 2006 (All-Ireland final), tactically they came out to do that, so tactics are not unknown to Kilkenny.

“I don’t think any sweeper system beat Kilkenny this year, I think teams are catching up. That’s a quality Waterford team (who defeated Kilkenny in the qualifiers).

“Wexford bet us, and they won three Leinster U21 titles, which means they either beat Kilkenny along the way or they beat the team that beat Kilkenny.

“I don’t necessarily buy into the fact that Kilkenny can’t play against a sweeper system, I just think teams are improving a lot.”

The sweeper system has attracted some critics this season, with GAA pundit Michael Duignan tweeting his disdain for it.

Carey has no issue with the sweeper system, but there are certain aspects of sport that he can’t make room for.

“The sweeper system is great as far as I’m concerned, playing to the strengths or the ability that you have in a team. I have no problem with that, I have no problem with passion and fire on the sideline.

“But taking a player out of the game is something that I disagree with and any team that I will be involved with or have been involved with, will have seen the style of game we would play.

To me, you’re true character comes out in a game and I don’t believe that you walk off the field and that’s where stuff is left in the sense of ‘don’t ask me to shake your hand if you’re after saying stuff to me.’ To me, sportsmanship starts before, during and after the game.

“Obviously during the game, fellas will get hit and things will be said in the heat of the moment and in a lot of cases, that’s ok. But to me, sportsmanship starts before the game, after the game and during the game.

“If you want to carry on in a very nasty way during the game, I don’t accept that as sportsmanship.”

12/6/2005 DJ Carey DJ Carey. Source: INPHO

Croke Park hosted the National Concussion Symposium recently, where the GAA Director General Páraic Duffy — who is set to retire next year — said that concussion is a ‘big issue for the GAA.’

While he is pleased that the condition is being treated appropriately at national level, he is concerned with how it is managed at lower grades of hurling and football.

GAA.ie quotes him as saying:

“We play thousands of games throughout the organisation over the course of the year and I think at most games there are no medical personnel present.”

Carey suffered seven concussions throughout his hurling career, and in most of those cases, he can’t remember much of what happened.

“I’ve seen videos where I’ve played and continued on in the game, and found out afterwards that I was concussed. People don’t know and I’d say the player themselves doesn’t know because it looks like you can hold a conversation.

“One that I do remember was at a training session. I was running backwards to catch a high ball that was coming in and I was pushed in the air. I landed on my back/head.

I was a bit shaken up but I finished the session and when I went home, I got pretty poorly and had to go to hospital for two or three days.

Carey believes that part of the problem relates to the honesty of the players when they are being assessed after a bang during a game. The player’s desire to stay on the pitch despite the head trauma they have suffered, can also complicate the situation.

For Carey, there was no real protocol in place for him to follow at the time, which led him to making a premature return to the pitch.

“And that was down to yourself,” he explains, “so you’d go to your club and say you’re ok to play, and there’s no-one there to make a decision that you’re not ok.

“The difficulty for anyone, particularly going back over the years is that they trust the player, and the player wants to stay on the field.

DJ Carey 2/11/2003 Carey in action for his club Young Irelands in the 2003 Kilkenny SHC final. Source: INPHO

“I think six of the seven concussions that I’ve had have been at club hurling and I spoke to one of our guys at the club and he told me that he has wanted to take me off on occasions where I insisted on staying on the field, and was able to have a full conversation.”

He continued:

“If one of your best players gets a knock, goes down and he’s stunned, it’s a very difficult scenario where he has to come off the field, when he looks and says he’s fine.

It’s a real tricky one but I personally think in GAA games (that) the frontal charge is as dangerous as concussion to the side of the head or front of the head, in so far as your head and neck get very shaken and you can be concussed from that.

“Obviously nowadays, there’s a much bigger emphasis on concussion, so doctors, physios and people over teams are much more advanced in that area.”

DJ Carey and Brian Cody 8/9/2002 DIGITAL DJ Carey and Brian Cody pictured together after the 2002 All-Ireland final. Source: INPHO

Carey will be reunited with his former manager Brian Cody when the nine-time All-Star takes up his bainisteoir bib next year.

The pair achieved All-Ireland success while working together before, and the obvious hope in Kilkenny is that they can reach those heights again.

“We’re lucky to have him (Cody) in Kilkenny and lucky to have him going forward in terms of what I can offer.

“He’s at the coalface of where hurling is going and if he’s at the coalface at senior level, that’s where minor, U21 and other aspects of the game are going as well.”

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