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'I wouldn’t be getting too carried away by Limerick just yet. I don’t see them winning the All-Ireland'

Jackie Tyrrell doesn’t think John Kiely’s team are in the top three counties that can contest for the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2019.

JACKIE TYRRELL DOESN’T believe that Limerick can retain their All-Ireland crown this year.

1648645 Jackie Tyrrell and Rena Buckley launched the new season of Laochra Gael this week.

At the very least, he would like to see how the Allianz hurling league plays out before revising his prediction.

He notes their explosive start to the year and the confidence they’ve drawn from their triumph in 2018. But at this point in the season, he simply doesn’t think they can scale the mountain again.

In fact, he doesn’t even list them in his top three counties with Liam MacCarthy credentials for 2019.

John Kiely’s side are two from two so far in the league and are two points clear at the top of Division 1A. But the ex-Kilkenny defender isn’t quite convinced by their 100% return and even has concerns about their impressive start to the season.

“I wouldn’t be really getting too carried away by Limerick just yet,” Tyrrell begins at the launch of the Laochra Gael series which will feature an episode about the Cats legend next week on TG4.

It’s a long year. I don’t see them winning the All-Ireland this year, I really don’t.

“They’re nearly going too well for me now. I would be wrapping some of those lads in cotton wool and holding them back a bit.

“Clare need to hold back Tony Kelly too. It is a long year. I know we can only analyse what we see in front of us but I wouldn’t be getting too excited just yet.”

Galway, Tipperary and Clare are Tyrrell’s top three picks for All-Ireland success in 2019 and he has been particularly impressed by what he’s seen so far from the Banner county.

Along with omitting the reigning champions from that group, the nine-time All-Ireland winner is also leaving his own county out of the mix for now. Incidentally, the two sides will meet in round three of the league on Sunday at Nowlan Park [throw-in, 2pm].

Kilkenny have the ability to win an All-Ireland, he stresses, and although they have failed to reach the last two Croke Park deciders, Tyrrell is confident that Cody’s place at the helm remains secure.

Jackie Tyrrell and Brian Cody celebrate at the final whistle Tyrrell was a key defender for Brian Cody during his senior Kilkenny career. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“Brian will be there as long as he wants to be,” the James Stephens man says with defiance having soldiered for Cody for over a decade.

That being said, he would still prefer to see more of the league action unfold before making a judgement about their All-Ireland winning potential.

Richie Leahy has impressed Tyrrell but he wants to see if the Rower Inistioge forward can cement a regular spot in the starting team later in the year while question marks sit over the full-back position.

The answers to those conundrums will give Tyrrell a better idea of where Kilkenny stand when championship time rolls around.

“I don’t see Kilkenny or Limerick in that bracket at the minute,” says the four-time All-Star. “I don’t have them in there.

John Kiely will be sitting at home rubbing his hands together when he hears that. But honestly, I don’t think anyone is as far on as Clare are at the minute and until the league throws up more, I wouldn’t have Limerick or Kilkenny in there.

“There’s one thing guaranteed – when Kilkenny go out to play, they may not win but they’ll fight with their boots on. Every ball, every game to the bitter end.”

Having retired from the inter-county game in 2016, playing for James Stephens is Tyrrell’s only focus in hurling right now.

He’s not sure yet if this will be his last year with the senior squad as his son was born just 13 weeks ago. His arrival may result in Tyrrell reassessing his plans but he’s hoping to be able to make that call as the year progresses.

He wants to play junior hurling for the club at some stage too, while he also wants to join former Kilkenny teammate Tommy Walsh in matching the longevity of New England Patriots quarter-back Tom Brady.

UPI 20190204 Tom Brady [file pic]. Source: UPI/PA Images

“Tommy reckons he could do a Tom Brady and go to 45 so I have a bit of competition as well with Tommy,” he jokes.

Issues with club fixtures have been reported by several players across the GAA codes in recent years, and Tyrrell claims that last year’s club fixture schedule in Kilkenny was “a disaster”. 

His frustration is obvious in his voice as he talks about matches being changed without knowing when they would be rescheduled which, he argues, prevented players from enjoying their social life.

Tyrrell adds that the fixture schedule looks much healthier this year, with two club games pencilled in for April followed by another one in May during Kilkenny’s week off in the Leinster round-robin series.

That arrangement presents the county players with a packed timetable of games, but Tyrrell believes it to be a reasonable compromise.

“It is [hard on the county players] but I suppose they or we have got the rub of the green long enough and you are going back playing a game of hurling for your club you should be chomping at the bit.

“The lads that aren’t making the 26 should be saying, ‘Hey Brian, I’m here, I’m still doing my thing’. That’s the way lads should be looking at it.

“The club is the heartbeat of the GAA and the club is being neglected. It’s not a big demand to go and play club game midweek. If you’re serious about your hurling, you do your recovery and you go again.

“I think one club game in midweek isn’t much to ask of a county player.”

He adds that club games also give players on the periphery of the Kilkenny panel a chance to make a case for more game time. 

“If you’re not going well, it’s a chance to get a bit of confidence in a different environment back at the club. If I’m in the 26 but not getting a game, it’s a chance to put my hand up. It’s win-win – I can’t see much of a problem.”

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