A visit to Wexford is good for all

In the end the result was not on the scale of the 2008 All-Ireland senior hurling final loss, but the mood among the Waterford players and mentors was probably similar, especially after a second heavy defeat in successive weekends.

In the end the result was not on the scale of the 2008 All-Ireland senior hurling final loss, but the mood among the Waterford players and mentors was probably similar, especially after a second heavy defeat in successive weekends.

The only consolation from a dreary afternoon and National Hurling League tie in Nowlan Park for our neighbours is that Waterford has a play-off with Dublin to avoid relegation.

We saw two sides to Kilkenny’s game. The team looked out of sorts for much of the opening half. It is a long time since Kilkenny was held scoreless for the opening 15 minutes but this was in part due to wayward shooting, from play and frees.

Kilkenny’s two point interval lead was just about merited with Jonjo Farrell’s goal in the 20th minute the crucial score. The build up to the goal saw Kilkenny move the ball well from midfield with a number of players backing up each other.

The alert Farrell was on hand to flick the ball to the net, but it could easily have been finished by one or two other attackers.

Waterford’s cause was not helped by the decision to play an extra defender. It may have bolstered the team’s rearguard, but it left a spare Kilkenny defender to clear balls at will. Despite the timid fare in the opening 35 minutes it was difficult to envisage a Waterford collapse.

Unfortunately for all involved with the Déise, this was a capitulation of major proportions. The side was low enough on confidence after a drubbing from Clare the previous weekend. Now Kilkenny inflicted a defeat that will cast grave doubts over prospects in the championship.

Kilkenny’s second half display was impressive. The work ethic from every player improved immeasurably, as did the overall team work. The Cats stepped up the pace also and Waterford came off second best in every exchange.

The introduction of Richie Power late in the first half was the biggest factor in Kilkenny’s second half dominance. The Carrickshock player picked off some neat points, and was regularly involved setting up scores. Mark Kelly continues to impress at full-forward, and another two goals from the O’Loughlin Gaels player suggests he is securing his championship place.

Waterford was abysmal in the second half. There is no redeeming feature for the Déise men from this game. In the 2008 All-Ireland final they were overwhelmed from the opening moments. When the Cats came attacking, Waterford had no answer.

Even allowing for Waterford’s poor performance, there was a lot to admire in the Kilkenny defence. The middle sector looked significantly more solid than in previous games, with J.J. Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell in total control.

Provided he stays injury-free, Delaney will retain the No. 3 jersey. That will make all Kilkenny followers very happy.

Supporters can’t get carried away with this success. However, the team had a much more solid look to it in the second half.

We still need a player of Michael Fennelly’s stature and strength in the midfield, while the return of a fit Michael Rice would also be a valuable option.

A trip to Wexford Park now awaits Kilkenny. I am delighted to see two of hurling’s great rivals facing each other in an important tie. Such occasions have been all too rare in recent years.

The Slaneysiders have been showing decent form and a game against Kilkenny in their home ground is precisely what manager, Liam Dunne and his players need as they prepare for the Leinster championship.

Kilkenny will be favourites, but we can expect nothing less than a fully committed display from the home side.

I mentioned the prospects of an all-Kilkenny colleges final some weeks ago. So it has turned out. The final on Saturday week will be a truly historic occasion. Momentum is with St Kieran’s, but you can take nothing for granted with this fine CBS outfit.