KILKENNY look set to be at full strength for the big south east hurling shoot-out against neighbours Waterford in the All-Ireland championship semi-final on Sunday.
As the Cats wind down training at Nowlan Park this week, manager Brian Cody was in the happy position of having a full squad available for the Croker Park clash.
Former All-Star Michael Rice was nursing a knock suffered in training over the weekend and sat out Monday’s session, but the Carrickshock midfielder/attacker will be fit for the fray.
“Everyone will be available for selection,” Brian Cody told the ’People. “Michael (Rice) picked up a bit of an injury but he will be okay.”
The chosen XV will be announced after the final get together on Friday evening. Few expect changes from the side that produced a strong and controlled performance during the Leinster final defeat of National League champions, Dublin.
The latest win in Leinster set a new record mark as the Cats ran up a seventh victory on the trot.
The Noresiders are defending a 100% record against the Deise in the championship since Mr Cody took over in 1999.
The score currently stands at 3-0 in favour of Kilkenny, who are chasing a place in their 11th final since Cody succeeded his cousin, Kevin Fennelly.
Incidentally, in 1998, during his one season in charge, Mr Fennelly masterminded a thrilling All-Ireland semi-final victory over Sunday’s opponents.
“Our sights are set on being in the All-Ireland final,” Mr Cody insisted. “Kilkenny have never found it easy against Waterford in the championship. They won’t on Sunday either.”
The James Stephens clubman said Waterford were armed with all the artillery needed to be champions. He was hugely impressed by the way Davy Fitzgerald’s troops picked themselves up off the floor after a 21-point drubbing in the Munster final to totally out-class Galway in the quarter-finals.
“The character and resilience they showed was of the highest order,” he insisted. “They proved they had what every team wanting to be winners needs – great resilience, character and mental toughness.”
On a mission
Waterford were beaten in the semi-finals in 2009 (2-23 to 3-15) by the Cats, and the year before they were walloped to the tune of 26 points in the final when the same pair met.
“You get the sense Kilkenny are a team on a mission to get back to the top this season after losing last year’s final,” suggested Waterford selector, Paraic Fanning, who is no stranger to hurling in this county.
He managed James Stephens for two seasons and he went within an ace of capturing a senior title with them.
“We know we are up against it, but that is nothing new for us,” Mr Fanning added. “It is great to pit yourself against the best.
“We know that is what we will be doing in the All-Ireland semi-final. We are ready to have a go,” he concluded.