This year’s All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final offers a repeat of last year’s challengers, but Kilkenny are hoping there’ll be a change in fortune.
The Cats will be out for revenge when they take on Waterford in Sunday’s crunch clash at Croke Park (throw-in 1.30pm).
Waterford beat Kilkenny by two points (2-12 to 0-16) in the 2013 semi-final. It’s a result that has stuck in the minds of a number of the current panel.
The Deise went on to clinch the All-Ireland last September, their first title since 1948. This time around they will be full of confidence as they look to retain their crown.
Pat Hoban is the Kilkenny minor manager and he believes that this Waterford team are well equipped to face his side.
“We know we’re up against a serious side this time around,” he said. “Last year will be a huge motivator for lads who were involved and obviously for us as management we would like to get one over on them - but we’re not stupid enough to think that’s its going to be easy.
“We played Waterford back in May in a challenge and they beat us off the field in Palmerstown,” he recalled. “They gave us a real trimming that day.”
Waterford have recovered well since losing the Munster final to Limerick, bouncing back with a convincing quarter-final win over Dublin in Thurles a fortnight ago.
Hoban, who was in attendance that day, weighed up both side’s performances.
“Waterford were good,” he said. “They had a very strong and physical half-forward line as well as a number of sharp inside forwards who did it for them on the day.
“Dublin made a couple of errors and they were punished with goals,” he added. “That was the difference. Waterford are a very good side.”
Seven on panel
Of the 15 who started for the Cats in last year’s semi-final, seven are still on the panel.
Their manager believes those players will have learned from their previous clashes on the big stage.
“You would hope that their experience will make a difference at this level,” he said. “However, we also have the experience of playing this year’s Leinster final with the squad.
“That’s another big day. The guys have been up there, and hopefully these things will give you that bit of an advantage. We hope that we will have a huge crowd there with the seniors as well so we’re hoping for a big day out.”
By the time Kilkenny line out on Sunday, it will have been five weeks since their last competitive clash against Dublin.
In their down-time the Mullinavat clubman explained how the players have relaxed before the big game.
“After the Dublin match the lads went back to their clubs for both minor and senior games,” he said. “We didn’t bring them back in until the second week, but have also played a couple of challenge matches too.
“Less is more in a way to make sure that we don’t overdo it,” he continued. “Training has been good, and we are happy how it has gone. We had a bit of a day together, and that worked out very well for the lads. A bit of craic in a different setting is always good.”
Waterford have proved already this year that they are a strong side. That loss to Limerick is the only black spot on an otherwise unblemished record.
Having beaten Kilkenny at the same stage last year, confidence will be in high supply Suirside. However, with solid performances from the likes of Liam Blanchfield and Alan Murphy in recent weeks, Kilkenny have two forwards who can turn a game on its head.
“The two lads had a great Leinster final and they are guys who have been there before,” said Hoban. “They’ve lost to Waterford and they will be ready for this.
“We have six forwards on the field as well as lads who might come on and we need them all to perform. I’m sure Waterford have looked at us and they will have tried to see how they will contain us.”
“We’re up against it as they are the current All-Ireland champions,” he cautioned. “They will be expecting to beat Kilkenny this weekend.
“They gave us a trimming a few weeks ago so their tails are up, but the pressure is all on them.”