KILKENNY’S prospects of reaching the Allianz National Hurling League final are back on track following a deserved win over Waterford on Sunday. Perhaps the winning margin flattered, but it was encouraging to witness the manner of the Cats response when Waterford took the lead during the second half.
It was not until the closing 10 minutes that the good attendance made their presence felt. Up to that the game was hugely disappointing with constant bunching by the players and very little free-flowing hurling.
The beautiful afternoon cried out for crisp ground hurling, but it was so rare as to be non-existent. From a Kilkenny perspective the win was a real fillip after the recent loss to Galway.
More importantly, many of the players looked a lot sharper.
The return of Brian Hogan to the defence was a real plus for Kilkenny. The team’s newly appointed captain was the star player and his command of the centre-back position had a major steadying influence on the entire rearguard.
The winning of the game came down to Kilkenny’s superior attack. The Cats six starting forwards scored 2-9 from play, whereas the starting forwards for the Déise only managed 1-3.
Much of the credit for this paltry return by Waterford must go to the home defence, which despite a few lapses held their opponents in a vice-like grip.
Waterford’s prospects of reaching the League final are very slim as a result of this defeat. That will not please their manager Davy Fitzgerald as he prepares his side for a Munster championship clash with Limerick on June 12.
With two rounds remaining in the 2011 Allianz League the final pairing will be decided with a round to go if Kilkenny and Galway win their respective games next weekend. Galway faces a stiff assignment against Tipperary, but they have home advantage.
Kilkenny travel to Croke Park on Saturday as part of the Dublin Spring Series. They will be out for revenge following their recent Walsh Cup final defeat by the same opponents. Defeat, though, would not end their League prospects, but they would be depending on favourable results in the closing round.
Looking for best form
With many players unavailable throughout the League due to injury and illness, more players than usual are getting an opportunity to impress the selectors. Michael Fennelly and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick will most likely overcome their illnesses for the clash with Dublin, but injuries suffered on Sunday by Tommy Walsh and J.J. Delaney could sideline them for a while.
Despite suffering only one reverse in the League, Kilkenny have yet to hit top form, but there are still some weeks to go before their opening championship outing on June 11.
Reaching a League final would help the selectors wrap up their championship panel. That should make for a highly competitive game in Croke Park on Saturday.