SPORT is a results driven business, including at club level in the GAA. Things are beginning to get serious for a number of outfits who are finding life difficult in the Kilkenny senior hurling league/championship this season.
Once mighty Tullaroan, who have been struggling for a few years, have been hit hard by emigration. While their spirit and commitment are admirable, the odds are stacked against them and the campaign looks like being one long slog.
They lost their opening two games in the league against James Stephens and Carrickshock. With championship kings, O’Loughlin Gales providing the opposition this weekend, they have little or no hope of turning things around in the short term.
The other team without a point are Clara. They won the intermediate championship three seasons ago with a young and promising group of players whose best days appeared to be ahead of them. The year on year progress expected didn’t materialise, with an ever continuing problem of turning good moves into scores constantly keeping them back.
They face unbeaten Graigue-Ballycallan at the weekend, and they won’t get any hop there.
Right now Clara look to have problems that won’t be easily sorted, and a fight for their lives in the top flight could be on the cards.
On the other side of the coin, James Stephens exploded into the season and gave new manager, Niall Rigney a dream start by scoring two big wins. The Village head their group, and if they can keep the good times rolling against Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) this time they would be nicely set to get a shot at retaining the league title.
This round of games has been spread over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with two matches each evening. For fans who like to take in a number of matches, this is a good spread. Enjoy the action!
Thomastown - Dicksboro v Carrickshock: The intermediate champions (Dicksboro) against last year’s losing championship finalists, Carrickshock is not exactly a meeting of equals. The latter, even without the injured, John Tennyson, would have a huge edge in experience, and at this level that can make a big difference.
At the moment a single point divides the clubs in the league table. All indications would suggest that will be three after this clash, which would mean the ’Boro would be dumped firmly in the relegation area. That is what their season is all about, avoiding the drop.
In the last round Carrickshock were made battle for the points by struggling Tullaroan. They had a good appetite for such a test, so the ’Boro need not expect a softening of their resolve. Richie Power is the potential destroyer, and Michael Rice will take holding too. The ’Boro must be very careful of John Power too, who is finding his feet nicely at senior level.
Verdict - Carrickshock.
Nowlan Park - Shamrocks v Fenians: The Shamrocks welcomed back Henry Shefflin in the last game. He is mad for action. They were hoping to have towering central defender, Eamon Walsh, back after surgery to repair a long running hip problem.
He won’t make it this time, but he might for the next round in July. Likewise with county star, Michael Fennelly. On a positive note, Patrick Reid, who has been dogged by different ailments for ages, is back in the squad chasing a first team place. Bob Aylward, who is working on and off in England, will be in town for the game.
Shamrocks are easing into the season. They mean business, but the championship is the No. 1 target.
Fenians, who fielded without the injured J.J. Delaney the last day, knew from the outset that this season was going to be tough. This is about as tough as things can get. They are not too bad at the back and at midfield, but getting scores is a problem.
There won’t be too many handy chances going here.
All the indications are that Shamrocks are booked for a win. They were beaten last time out by Dunnamaggin. The Fenians could feel the backlash after that setback.
Verdict - Shamrocks.
Jenkinstown - James Stephens v Erin’s Own: ’Stephens have hit the ground running under new boss, Niall Rigney. Two games played, two wins and the highest scorers in the division with 5-37 in the scoring bag. No one could ask for more.
In Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) they face a team that hasn’t clicked into the high gear that drove them on so strongly and impressively during the previous two seasons. It is early days, and they have no intention of blowing themselves out. But they need a win to lighten the mental load.
A huge ’Comer crowd will travel for this one, which will encourage the warriors to let trip. They look better equipped than previous opponents Tullaroan and Dicksboro to test the Larchfield outfit. That might not be enough.
Jackie Tyrrell, Eoin Larkin, Donnacha Cody and even new county man, Matthew Ruth used their experience well for ’Stephens the last day. There is an interesting balance to their team. Winning is the only thing in town now as far as they are concerned.
Verdict - James Stephens.
Bennettsbridge - Clara v Graigue-Ballycallan: The luck and run of the draw has certainly gone with Graigue and they have made the best of things. They head their group, and with a third win looking well within their capabilities, they can stay there for another few weeks at least.
Clara are not only without a win, they are struggling for the sort of decent form that could lift them out of the mire. They opened full of enthusiasm against St Martin’s in the last round, but after they conceded 1-1 just before the break the spark went from the team.
They have plenty of good hurlers, but they are badly in need of a performance or result that would give them a much needed injection of confidence. There is only way out of this for them - to battle and battle.
Looking at the run of fixtures to come, Graigue have reason to cast an eye forward towards a possible place in the league final. It may be early days, but that goal is achievable.
First of all they must keep their feet on the ground and get over this hurdle. You see, there is no such thing as an easy match at senior or intermediate level in Kilkenny.
Graigue, for all the good things that are happening for them at the moment, would do well to remember that.
Verdict - Graigue-Ballycallan.
Tom Ryall Park - O’Loughlin Gaels v Tullaroan: In their last match Tullaron played Carrickshock. Here they face the other side that featured in the 2010 championship showdown. Talk about things being hard when you are down!
O’Loughlin’s will be going full blast for the points because they could be without a good number of players before the next round because of the annual Summer flight of youngsters to the US. A third win would secure their place in the top flight, which has to be the first priority with any club.
After that O’Loughlin’s can have a fresh look at things.
The Tullaroan defence, as a unit, is good but making gains up front is ever so trying for them. They have lost numbers to emigration. They are losing games. Things are not going to change in the short term.
Verdict - O’Loughlin-Gaels
Palmerstown - St Martin’s v Dunnamaggin: This could be the toughest call from the weekend programme. Dunnamaggin are on a high after beating Shamrocks. Martin’s are in good mood after picking up their first win.
Something has to give.
Dunna’s are very good at the back where the Hickeys’, Noel and Canice give the team a massive spine. Goalie David Herity has taken his game to a new level, as should happen with the inter-county experience he has gained. Further afield Ken Moore, Darren Fitzpatrick, J.J. Dunphy, Seaghan O’Neill, Bill McCormack and company work fierce hard.
Martin’s, on the other hand, might be that bit more assured after beating Clara. They are a bit too dependent on veteran, John Maher, in attack for their own good. The last day he scored 1-6 of their total of 1-13. The scoring workload will have to be spread out more.
They have a good half-back line, powered by the massive talent that is James Dowling at centre-back.
Both teams are a work in progress under new managers, Sean O’Neill (Martin’s) and Seamus Knox. Currently they are level on points. Dunnamaggin looked capable of getting an advantage.
Verdict - Dunnamaggin.