The Kilkenny legend met Shane Stapleton at the Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny this week to talk about his youth, a successful hurling career, how many times his hands were broken hurling, and managing his sons
BY SHANE STAPLETON
DJ Carey knows the pressure of carrying a county’s hopes.
When Kilkenny went through a number of lean years during the 90s, the Young Irelands man was at times their only bright spark.
Towards the latter end of Carey’s career, which ended in 2005, the Cats began to dominate and would go on an unprecedented run of success under Brian Cody.
Losing the Leinster final to Wexford this season continued what has been a barren spell for the Stripey Men, who have failed to win championship silverware since the provincial decider in 2016.
This weekend, Cody and his men head for Croke Park to meet a Cork side who, after losing a couple of games in Munster to finish third, last week put up a scoreline of 1-40 on Westmeath.
The bookies are tipping the Rebels, and it’s a worrying time for Kilkenny fans who have been so used to star-studded teams over the past 20 years, but have seen this side already lose six competitive games in 2019.
“Of course,” Carey tells OurGame. “We like to be greedy and everyone does, but if teams come along and they’re better than you, there’s not a lot you can do.
“But look anywhere on our team, there are still a lot of great players, from Eoin Murphy in goal, to Wally Walsh or Ger Aylward, whoever it would be, there are still a lot of good players and the nucleus of a very good team.
“Other teams have good players too. Kilkenny are probably a bit slower to move, that’s not to do with management per se… let’s say Davy Fitz is coming in with new ideas into Wexford. If Davy was in Kilkenny, would it be as easy to transfer that game to a Kilkenny player?
“I’m not saying it would or wouldn’t. Would it be done with Tipperary?”
Is that because the traditionalists in the county would be up in arms?
“Yes, you can imagine players looking at that. ‘Lump it up to the full-forward line and let them win it’ — the traditional game, and that’s what I hear to this day.”
A tactic which, if not used in a varied game plan, makes a hero out of a sweeper such as Wexford’s Kevin Foley?
“Exactly. I like this game, there’s a lot of movement and running off the shoulder. You have to get the pass right to get the pinpoint one inside. I like it, it’s moving with the times.”
Many moons ago, Carey played in his first of four All-Ireland final clashes against this weekend’s opponents, Cork.
That was the 1992 decider when the conditions beat into the faces of the Cats in the first half, giving them an uphill struggle.
“It was a miserable wet day and we played against howling wind and rain,” Carey recalls. “We only scored 1-2 in the first half, which I actually got, but the two points were from play and the goal was a penalty.
“Cork missed a huge amount of chances in that first half so they were only a few points ahead (after playing with the wind).
“As it turned out, it was a nice day in the second half so the wind had gone and the rain had gone, but we were very fortunate.
“John Power got a goal that day when he kicked the ball, and Ger Cunningham went the wrong way.
“We were thrilled to get the win because we had lost to Tipp in the final the year before.”
The nine-time All Star won two of four finals against the Rebels, and it has always been a source of frustration that he didn’t score in those other clashes in ‘99, ‘03, and ‘04.
For Kilkenny to catch fire this year, they need their star men on the ball early and often. TJ Reid has been the talisman for a long time now, yet the injury-plagued Richie Hogan has been used sparingly.
“Yeah, well it’s an injury and a legacy (of injury) to be honest,” says Carey. “I’m not sure because I don’t know the inner workings of the Kilkenny senior panel. That’s a closed shop.
“There must be a reason why Richie is not used in a game and then only brought on for a minute or so (against Wexford). There has to be a reason, and injury must be part of that.
“I think Kilkenny really have to throw caution to the wind now and we need all our best players on board.
“At the end of the day, no matter what anyone says, we have great players and anyone that takes a Kilkenny jersey will be a very good player, but it hasn’t worked so far.
“So if Richie Hogan is fit, and if he is ready to play, we need Richie on the field.
“TJ is right up there (with the greats), there’s no doubt about it,” Carey adds. “He has taken that mantle on himself and, remember, it took TJ a few years to make it as well.
“But he’s certainly taken the mantle on massively and, when we don’t have him, we’re far less of a team. So TJ would be up there with any great that would be mentioned with Kilkenny.”
Carey talks about a range of topics from his career during our interview — his youth, a successful hurling career, how many times his hands were broken hurling, and managing his sons. Click play at the top of the page, and then go to part 2.