Dublin and Cork march onwards

I imagine the majority of the Kilkenny supporters heading to Portlaoise for Saturday’s minor hurling game will hit the road again for Sunday’s senior hurling semi-final against Galway in Tullamore.

I imagine the majority of the Kilkenny supporters heading to Portlaoise for Saturday’s minor hurling game will hit the road again for Sunday’s senior hurling semi-final against Galway in Tullamore.

Kilkenny will be favourites, which is inevitable after a comprehensive league semi-final victory over the same opposition. I am tired of writing about Galway being an enigma, but there is no other way to describe the Westerners.

For a side brimming with talented hurlers it defies logic how they have not been more successful. How many Galway hurlers have already left the inter-county scene with unfulfilled ambitions?

Galway supporters are running low on patience with the current team, but no-one should doubt their ability to raise their game on any given day. That day just might be next Sunday.

Based on current form Kilkenny will be expected to win. The defence, though, will need to be a little tighter than it was against Offaly in the second half, although it must be acknowledged that the tie was decided by the interval.

With Richie Power ready to return Kilkenny have more attacking options. It is hard to see the Galway defence, albeit with a more solid central spine than last year, coping with the blistering pace of the Kilkenny forwards.

Whoever wins the clash in Tullamore will face the reigning champions Dublin in the Leinster final. Experience counts in every sport and such was the case in Wexford Park last Saturday as Dublin beat their hosts.

Wexford, as expected, started well. They were competitive, energetic and enthusiastic and matched their more experienced opponents in every facet of the game.

But like any side on a learning curve they lost their way at times. Key players were unable to build on the earlier momentum.

Dublin looked ring-rusty, hardly surprising as it was 11 weeks since their league relegation play-off. Challenge games are no substitute for championship fare and Wexford’s win over Antrim would have left them ready to face stronger opponents.

All too often in the second half Dublin players found themselves unchallenged and were able to shoot points from long distances. Those scores sapped Wexford’s energy.

Despite Dublin’s second half dominance there was never more than two scores between the teams and a Wexford goal would have made for an exciting finish. That Liam Dunne found it necessary to replace experienced forwards Jack Guiney and Rory Jacob shows the difficulties his attack had in the second half.

Dublin overdid the short passing game. They may have gotten away with it last Saturday evening, but it could be a costly tactic on another day.

Big games bring big players to the fore and in defender Paul Schutte and forward Conal Keaney Dublin had real stars. With the injured Danny Sutcliffe yet to return, they will be in much better shape for the provincial final.

It is important now for Wexford to regroup and prepare for the Qualifiers. The team needs more competitive games and the longer they can stay in the championship the better it will be for the squad’s development.

After last year Cork knew they had to find new men for key central positions. They used the league for this purpose and, judging by last Sunday’s impressive win over Clare, they are shaping up as serious title contenders.

Clare’s tactics were confusing, even for some of their players. Their discipline was poor and they paid a heavy price for their indiscretions.

Cork were the hungrier side, although the All-Ireland champions finished strongly. Another goal would have made for an exciting conclusion.

I failed to understand a lot of the nonsense that was being spoken about the new ruling on frees. Cynical fouling by defenders would now pay off, we were told. Well, Patrick Horgan answered with as good a taken goal as we have seen in a long time.

Clare will lick their wounds and regroup through the qualifiers. They will still be hurling in August.