KILKENNY U20 hurling manager DJ Carey was on Leeside this week to impart his handball knowledge to Ballydesmond club members.
The Dodger is one of Kilkenny’s all-time greats in both hurling and handball, this weekend, his focus very much on Kilkenny’s duel with Cork in the All Ireland U20 semi-final in Portlaoise on Saturday.
Having won the Leinster title away to Wexford, the feeling on the ground is Kilkenny hold a talented squad that harbour hopes of following the footsteps of their senior and minor teams on reaching All-Ireland finals this season. However, Carey is realistic and believes any of four teams are capable of taking outright honours.
“We had a good win over Wexford, poor conditions, a slog in heavy going. Wexford were on a high in terms of hurling yet in Wexford Park, it was a great occasion and a terrific atmosphere," he said.
The outcome leaves the Cats in a determined mood to carry on the process further but Carey admits Saturday’s contest will be much more difficult that they encountered against the yellow bellies.
“We are coming up to a different level, the Munster final was fantastic, Cork would be disappointed on not claiming provincial honours. Unfortunately for us, they will be on a bounce back and we’re up against it, to be perfectly honest, Cork have a great chance and hopefully Kilkenny have equally a chance," he said.
Carey spoke of both Kilkenny and Cork being out of the limelight at U21 level, Kilkenny without a title since 2008 and Cork’s famine goes back to 1998.
“Kilkenny haven’t been over successful at minor nor at U21 and U20, we’re behind the curve but playing catch up alongside Cork to repeat the successes of other teams such as Limerick, Clare and Galway," he said.
Whatever about the past decade at underage level, Carey is understandably relishing the opportunity of playing in an All-Ireland semi-final, hoping to progress and down the line, a number of players besides Adrian Mullen will become regulars on the senior team.
“Everyday, we go out, we aim to deliver a performance and be slightly better than the opposition. My job is to get the lads playing better hurling, the opportunity of making it into senior level, maybe, please God, winning a U20 title along the way," he said.
Whatever about being in the opposite corner to the Rebels on Saturday, Carey delighted his legion of fans on the Cork and Kerry border in Ballydesmond, offering advice on the skills of handball and playing an exhibition game in the company of Ladies National champion Caitriona Casey, former Cork football great Donncha O’Connor and Ballydesmond handball legend Brendan Fleming.