THE Kilkenny hurling cubs that were all but thrown together and yet turned out to be a winning force have been told to carry on.
The county will again entrust the defence of the Walsh Cup senior tournament to the Development Squad that did so well in the defeat of NUI Galway at the weekend.
The young braves will have an early start on Sunday, 12.30pm actually, when they face Wexford in the semi-final in Blackwater.
“The players are really looking forward to the challenge,” suggested ’Squad manager and current under-21 boss, Richie Mulrooney, who will again supervise things as the visitors bid to win the ticket into the final the following week against either Galway or Dublin.
Mr Mulrooney (Dicksboro) and fellow under-21 team selectors, Adrian Finan (James Stephens) and Brian Ryan (Fenians) with Niall Lacey, Dicksboro (physical trainer) will supervise affairs in the absence of senior manager, Brian Cody and his officials, Michael Dempsey and Martin Fogarty.
The latter officials will continue working with the senior squad who are concentrating their preparations and energies on the opening on the National League programme, which will feature an All-Ireland final repeat against Galway in Salthill on Sunday, February 24.
Team left late
Just like last weekend when the make up of the team was left until late in the week, Kilkenny will again defer the naming of a team until maybe Friday or Saturday.
A number of players are involved in Fitzgibbon Cup matches with their colleges today (Wednesday) and on Thursday, and if any become available they could be asked to join the trip to Blackwater.
“Facing Wexford would be a step up from a college team, but it a great opportunity for the younger players to test themselves,” Mr Mulrooney added. “Wexford should be stronger and more experienced, but it is by playing against such teams that you learn things.”
Kilkenny’s win over NUIG was unusual in so far as everyone who got a chance came up to the mark. No one looked out of their depth, which for a collection of individuals largely without training and who had never played together before was a fair accomplishment.
The selectors worked off a 30-strong panel (see match report, page 4) for the clash in St John’s Park on Saturday, and if all are available they will be on duty again. It is unlikely that centre-back, Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks) will be involved after he suffered a concussion against the Galway side.
Meanwhile, two Kilkenny clubs showed lots of talent and true grit when winning through to All-Ireland finals on Sunday. Clara (intermediate) and Thomastown (junior) will be bidding to put their names in lights in the Croke Park deciders on Sunday, February 10.
“The manner of the victory was the most pleasing thing,” insisted Clara manager, Robert Shortall. “The players just refused to give in. A couple of things went against us, and late in the game too, but they just wouldn’t let go.”
Paul Treacy was equally proud of his Thomastown battlers, who won despite being down to 14-men during the second half.
“The players handled the occasion and demands very well,” he insisted. “This has turned out to be a great journey and learning experience for the players, and they are all thrilled at the prospect of playing in Croke Park.