After an inter-county break which delivered few highs, clubs across the county will get back to what they know best this weekend.
The intermediate hurling league will end its three-month stay in cold storage when the fourth round of games kicks into gear at the second time of asking.
Following a delay caused by Kilkenny’s route through the back door in the Summer - the final two batches of league games had originally been pencilled in for the final weeks in July - clubs will have a busy Autumn on their hands as silverware, promotion and relegation all come into focus.
In terms of the league, the action will pick up with many of teams left with a good chance of making either the league or shield finals. Group A is incredibly tight, with two points separating top from bottom. Group B is slightly more clear-cut, as the Rower-Inistioge boast a 100% record while bottom-placed Tullogher are still searching for that first win of the campaign.
Ballyhale - Mooncoin v St Patrick’s (7pm)
St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) can still force their way into one of the two league finals, but scoring difference means they lie third in their group behind Thomastown and Dunnamaggin.
Currently occupying the bottom slot in Group A, Mooncoin could also do with a win - and badly. Although they beat Young Irelands in the opening round the following two games weren’t kind to them. Losing to Dunnamaggin (1-21 to 0-16) and Thomastown (3-16 to 2-8) has left them propping up the rest. In a group where scoring difference could decide final placings, a win wouldn’t set them up nicely for round five.
Hugginstown - Dunnamaggin v Thomastown (7pm)
A meeting of the group’s top two, both Dunnamaggin and Thomastown will be hoping to kick off the vital part of the year in winning fashion. A good run in the league would see Dunna’ continue their charge to regain the senior status they lost less than 12 months ago.
Making the top berth is also very much in Thomastown’s sights. The Grennan men know this is as good a time as any, given their All-Ireland junior heroics in the Spring. With scoring difference the only thing separating the sides (Thomastown have a slight edge in that regard) a tight battle could ensue.
Cloneen - Young Irelands v Conahy Shamrocks (6.45pm)
Young Irelands are part of the reason Group A is so close. Their 2-15 to 0-18 win over St Patrick’s in round two raised a few eyebrows, but defeats to Mooncoin and St Patrick’s has left them as one of three teams looking at the wrong end of the table. Taking points from an opponent in a similar predicament is a must for the Gowran men.
Even with a round of games left to play after Saturday’s meeting in Cloneen, Conahy will see this one as must-win affair. The Shamrocks have had a miserable time of it in the league over the last two years, finishing bottom in 2011 and 2012 - a long way from their first campaign in 2007, when they finished top of their group and made the final. Such a finish is beyond them this time, but they could still squeeze out of the relegations berths.
Tullogher - Glenmore v Rower-Inistioge (3pm
The first of three Group B games on Sunday, the Rower can secure their third league final appearance in five years with a win over Glenmore. Their southern rivals will be hoping to get the two points also as, having lost their opening two games, scoring difference has left them just above fifth-placed Mullinavat.
Tom Ryall Park - Emeralds v Mullinavat (6.45pm
Emeralds (Urlingford) will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they tackle Mullinavat. Victories in rounds one and two gave the Urlingford men a solid start to the league, but near-neighbours St Lachtain’s (Freshford) checked their stride in round three. Mullinavat will be hoping for better fortune following two successive defeats.
Bennettsbridge - Tullogher-Rosbercon v St Lachtain’s (6.45pm)
Tullogher have never finished higher than fifth in the league since coming up from the junior ranks in 2009. They’ll find it hard to end that run this year, even more so as they face off against a St Lachtain’s side chasing league silverware.
Clubs won’t have long to relax after the fifth round of league games as the intermediate hurling championship follows hot on its heels.
The first round of games in Kilkenny’s middle hurling tier will be held on the weekend of September 14/15, in conjunction with the league and shield finals.
The championship quarter-finals will be held the following week, with successful clubs earning the chance to recharge their batteries before contesting the semi-finals on October 6.
Barring delays for replays, the intermediate county final will form a doubler-header with the junior decider in Nowlan Park on Sunday, October 20.
IHL - the winners
The Shield final was added to the list of competitions in 2006, so the winners of the League and Shield since then are:
League final - Clara 2-15, St Lachtain’s 0-15
Shield final - Rower-Inistioge 2-11, St Patrick’s 2-10
League final - Rower-Inistioge 2-16, Danesfort 1-14
Shield final - Glenmore 2-12, Mooncoin 1-5
League final - Mullinavat 2-10, Danesfort 0-11
Shield final - Dicksboro 0-17, Young Irelands 0-14
League final - Rower-Inistioge 1-24, Danesfort 0-11
Shield final - St Lachtain’s 0-22, Dicksboro 1-14
League final - Emeralds 3-16, Conahy Shamrocks 0-14
Shield final - Erin’s Own 1-14, Rower-Inistioge 2-9
League final - Erin’s Own 1-12, Glenmore 0-13
Shield final - Mooncoin 2-13, St Lachtain’s 1-12
League final - Emeralds 3-6, Mullinavat 0-10.
Shield final - Galmoy 1-12, Clara 2-7.