When 2013 is eventually reviewed, Saturday’s Walsh Cup hurling tie may not merit a mention, but it certainly set down a marker that, irrespective of the composition of the Kilkenny team, the battling qualities that have been the hallmark of the senior side for well over a decade remain intact, writes Nickey Brennan.
We may not see too many of Saturday’s team in senior championship action this summer, but the Kilkenny under-21 mentors who took charge of the side will be pleased with the outcome.
It was a difficult afternoon for both teams having to cope with rain and wind.
In the circumstances the effort from both teams was commendable.
NUIG are in Fitzgibbon Cup action this week, so their preparations would have been more advanced than Kilkenny’s. Aided by a significant wind in the opening half, the visitors looked the sharper side, but Kilkenny slowly got to grips with the game.
Just two points separated the sides at the interval. The gap should have been greater, though, as the Galway students squandered numerous opportunities with Galway senior player Niall Burke guilty of two bad wides from frees. NUIG played its best hurling in the third quarter, particularly in defence.
Kilkenny was helped by the wind in the second half, but had to depend on pointed frees until Shane Donnelly got the Cats first second half score from play in the 19th minute.
NUIG’s dependence on Niall Burke’s free taking was even more significant as they failed to register a single score from play during the second half.
Their play got ragged in the closing quarter with players opting to run with the ball when first time striking would have been a far more effective option.
On at least three occasions NUIG attackers headed towards the Kilkenny goal clearly intent on scoring a three-pointer.
A vigilant and close-marking defence averted the danger on each occasion. Goalie Aaron Duggan made a great save in the 27th minute, while close to full time a block by Jason
Corcoran on the in-rushing Joseph Cooney was indicative of how difficult the NUIG attack found scoring in the second half.
Time after time NUIG players had difficulty lifting the ball, while the side’s obsession with a running game was ultimately its undoing. Kilkenny’s ball control was sharp all through (in marked contrast to its opponents), but most of all it was the side’s ‘never give up’ attitude that pleased the two hundred or so spectators.
The bulk of the local players will be involved at under-21 level this year. In the overall scheme of things Saturday’s victory may not seem important, but winning games can be a big help to any player’s confidence.
Finally, well done to Clara and Thomastown on their All-Ireland club semi-final successes. Let’s hope two club titles come to Kilkenny on next Sunday week.