By Brian McDonnell
PAUL Curran lives along the Tipp-Kilkenny border. So, for the Tipperary captain any clash with Kilkenny means that little bit more.
Indeed, Callan’s Johnny Kennedy currently trains the Mullinahone senior hurling team.
“Where I live I’m right on the border and we have hard-core Kilkenny guys, even the manager of our club team is a staunch Kilkenny man,” Paul Curran explained.
“He would wish you the best of luck, but behind it all he’s a Kilkenny man and they never change.
“He doesn’t say anything, but you just know by him. He doesn’t have to say anything, he just nods at you,” Curran said with a laugh.
Galway’s ten-point win over Kilkenny in the Leinster final surprised many, but not Paul Curran.
Just weeks previously to that provincial final Tipperary had faced Galway in a challenge match and lost.
“We had played Galway two or three weeks before that and they were really motoring. I knew they were focusing on that game and I expected a big performance from them,” Paul Curran told the Tipperary Star.
“When we played them they were after playing Westmeath. I think they went on a training camp and then we played them on the Monday or the Tuesday. We were fresh, they were tired, but they still won the game,” Curran explained.
“Was I surprised? Maybe. Kilkenny have never taken a beating like that, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.
“I knew some day that they were going to get caught (in Leinster).
“Mentally you just can’t stay switched on.
“Kilkenny were going for eight in-a-row and someone was going to catch them. They are not machines,” Curran added.
Following the defeat suffered at the hands of Galway Brian Cody’s Kilkenny got back on track thanks to an All-Ireland quarter-final win over Limerick at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
Kilkenny won that game and won it well. Obviously, Paul Curran was impressed by Kilkenny’s positive reaction to defeat.
“They beat Limerick by eight or nine points. People were still saying that Kilkenny were not going too well, but if you are beating Limerick by eight or nine points you can’t be going too badly. I think JJ (Delaney) and Michael Fennelly were a huge loss in the Leinster final.
“The two of them are back in and you can’t say any more about Kilkenny. Their record has shown that they will go down, I think, as being, probably, the best team ever,” Paul Curran said.
As a Tipperary hurler Paul Curran has suffered some heart-breaking defeats. He knows all about the recovery process.
“It’s all time,” Paul Curran explained.
“I suppose in 2010 Cork gave us a right trimming and we just took each game one by one.
“Sometimes things need to work themselves out on the training field. Lads come in to a bit of form. It takes time to build up the spirit.
“I suppose that’s what people mean when they talk about re-grouping. It doesn’t just happen over a week. It can take months.
“Over the league you are just building up and blending in new guys.”
Although Kilkenny are going through the process of trying to recover from a harrowing defeat suffered at the hands of Galway the Tipperary players are hoping to put their 2011 All-Ireland final defeat to the Cats behind them.
A recovery process which would ideally involve a win over Kilkenny in next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park.
“I don’t remember a whole lot about last year’s final which is unusual,” Paul Curran admitted.
“I remember more about the 2009 one. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because we didn’t play well.
“I think, personally, that Kilkenny should have won by a bigger margin on the day (2011). I would say that most hurling people would agree.
“But that was last year and this year is different. We’re meeting in the semi-final so it is something new.
“We are really just expecting a massive battle,” Paul Curran added.
“I suppose that for the last couple of years it has been very physical and both of us play a similar style where you win your personal battle and you let the ball in as fast as you can,” Paul Curran said.
“And, that’s something that I would admire about Kilkenny. I like the way they play, I like the physical side of it.”
Left: Paul Curran pictured in action against Galway’s Joe Canning - the Mullinahone man expected a big performance from the Tribesmen against Kilkenny.