New Kilkenny captain, Lester Ryan, will lead Kilkenny into the opening defence of the Allianz National Hurling League from a new position at centre-back.
The strong running Clara man and his colleagues face a massive task in Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday against All-Ireland champions, Clare, if they are to open the campaign with a win.
Manager Brian Cody and his selectors named a team that few fans would have guessed, and the emphasis is most certainly on youth. Long servers Jackie Tyrrell and Tommy Walsh will start on the subs bench, but nine times All-Ireland medal winner, Henry Shefflin, has been picked in attack.
In a totally new defensive formation, Ryan will take over at centre-back from Brian Hogan, who hasn’t been listed at all. Michael Walsh (Young Irelands), who did well during the Walsh Cup, has been picked at full-back.
Cillian Buckley and Padraig Walsh, who have been busy in the Fitzgibbon Cup in recent week, will form the midfield partnership behind the most experienced line of the team - Shefflin, Colin Fennelly and Eoin Larkin - who make up the ‘40’ line of the attack.
The full-forward line is very inexperienced at this level, with Jonjo Farrell, Mark Kelly and Walter Walsh making up the formation.
Kilkenny (SH v Clare) - David Herity, Conor Fogarty, Michael Walsh, Brian Kennedy, Joey Holden, Lester Ryan (capt), Paul Murphy, Cillian Buckley, Padraig Walsh, Henry Shefflin, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin, Jonjo Farrell, Mark Kelly, Walter Walsh. Subs - Eoin Murphy, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Willie Phelan, Shane Prendergast, David Langton, P. Phelan, A. Fogarty, Liam Ryan, J. Brennan, T. Breen.
Clare Co. Board officials will carry out a pitch inspection in the morning. They are anxious to have the game played, and it won’t be moved from Ennis, apparently.