THE door that could take them into the National Hurling League final swung wide open for Kilkenny at the weekend and they intend to dash through it......if they can, writes John Knox.
The Cats revived their chances of making the final while at the same time they scuppered Waterford’s hopes of making the cut when they showed grit and courage to win Sunday’s all action League tie at sun-kissed Nowlan Park.
“Things are nicely set up now,” beamed Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody after the defeat of the Suirsiders, coupled with title holders Galway’s win over Dublin, left the Cats and the defending champions at the top of the ’League ladder.
This weekend’s round of fixtures is vital, with Kilkenny facing Dublin on Saturday in Croke Park and Galway playing Tipperary in Pearse Stadium on Sunday. A win for Kilkenny and/or Galway would push them into the final, a round short of the finish.
Dublin, who suffered their first defeat at the weekend after shooting 19 wides and having a penalty saved, are still very much in the hunt.
“The clash has the makings of a great game,” added Mr Cody when speaking about the Dublin tie. “The potential was there for a great game anyway after they beat us in the Walsh Cup final a few weeks ago. They fairly slaughtered us in the first half that day.
“Dublin are playing very well. They are a serious outfit. They have a strong team. Saturday will be a serious, serious test.”
Anthony Daly’s team has really captured the imagination of the hurling public, and with so much on the line on Saturday, Croke Park could be rocking as the hurling tie (5.15pm) is played alongside the Football League match between Dublin and beaten All-Ireland finalists, Down (7.30pm). Jedward will form part of the entertainment on this most appealing Croker bill.
The Hawk Eye technology will also be in operation monitoring scores, but it will not be in official use. The GAA are experimenting with the technology with a view to using it in the future.
Right now a serious run of injuries is threatening to derail Kilkenny’s drive for ’League honours. Tommy Walsh (shoulder) and J.J. Delaney (hamstring) failed to finish against Waterford. They have little or no hope of featuring for a few weeks.
Michael Fennelly (back problem) and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick (tonsillitis) dropped of out Sunday’s team, but they should be fit to face the Dubs. Also on the injury list are Michael Rice (shoulder; a few more weeks), Richie Power (hip; a few more weeks) plus Henry Shefflin and John Tennyson.
“It is not nice at the moment,” was the summary from Brian Cody on the growing list of injuries. “In the circumstances we did very well against Waterford bearing in mind the talent we lost before and during the game.
Test of resources
“This is a real test of our resources, because there is a limit to what any squad can take. The other side of the story is that an opportunity is being presented to other players who can come in and state their case to be on the team.
“If you are part of the Kilkenny senior hurling panel responsibility goes with it. If the opportunity arises you have to step up to the plate.”
He admitted again that the defeat and performance against Galway were disappointing.
“There is no point in dressing it up to be anything other than it was, a bad result for us,” he added. “Beating Waterford was serious after that result. Now we head to Dublin next weekend with a real opportunity. We want to win.”