A CRUNCH tie against a fierce rival? All in a day’s work for the Kilkenny & District League’s youth team.
The Cats will go into battle this Saturday when they welcome the Waterford District League to Castlecomer for the second round of the Youths’ Inter-League (kick-off is at 2pm).
However, it’s more than local pride or bragging rights at stake. With both sides scoring big wins in their opening games, this match could decide who tops the group.
“Waterford will be the acid test for us,” said team boss Ronnie Grace. “You never see a poor Waterford side.
“This is a big game - it could be the biggest game - in the group, so a result is vital for us. It’s a real six-pointer.”
Kilkenny will be hunting for their second win of the campaign after that opening day 4-1 win over West Waterford/East Cork, but will still be wary that Waterford possess plenty of firepower themselves.
The Deise side exploded into action in their first game, handing the TSDL a 7-0 hammering in Ozier Park.
The rout started with a Jamie Hunt goal on 11 minutes, and while it was only 2-0 at half-time Waterford had two players record hat-tricks - Hunt and Josh Aimhui, with Dessie Hutchinson scoring the other - as they won at their ease in the second half.
Grace was well aware of the scoreline, but preferred to keep the focus on his own players.
“I know Waterford put up a big score in their opening match, but we have to work on our own game,” he said. “The rest will look after itself on Saturday.”
Kilkenny will go into the game in good form. The performances of the players has left Grace with a selection headache, especially considering the team’s display in the 4-1 win over the WWEC in Cappoquin.
“It’s a great problem to have,” the manager said. “We have some great options there if we have to go at this game tactically.”
The result could come down to tactics in what has traditionally been a tough game. Two seasons ago - in their best performance of an All-Ireland winning campaign - Kilkenny came from a goal down to beat Waterford in Ozier Park, changing their formation as they rattled off a series of late goals to win 4-1. Last year they were beaten in Waterford, losing not only the game but an unbeaten record that had lasted more than 14 months.
However, Kilkenny will be able to boast a side with plenty of experience at junior club level and, since the weekend, Oscar Traynor Trophy experience after Emmet Nugent, Sean Murphy, Dean Cornally, Conor English and Paddy Cahill were elevated to the junior inter-league squad.
“I’m delighted that some of the lads were called up to the Oscar Traynor panel,” said Grace. “They are well up to the standard.”
Grace also echoed the thoughts of Oscar Traynor boss Ollie Walsh, who stated he believed there should be a link-up between the squads to ensure players do come through.
“You have to keep young lads going,” he said. “If the door isn’t open for them they won’t progress.
“Having five players in the junior squad will be a great experience for them,” he added. “As for the others, half of our squad are under-age again next year so this campaign will be great for them.”
The Cats will be hoping to continue their winning ways on Saturday, but know that they’ll have to hit the ground running.
“It will be a big game which could come down to whoever makes the first mistake,” said Grace. “It’s as simple as that, as we know any errors will be punished. We have to make a good start, get rid of any nerves we have early on in the game to help us play as best we can. That said, the lads have been training well with excellent attendances, so we’re ready to give it our best.”
The Youths will train this evening (Wednesday) in Derdimus. Players to be in attendance for 6.50pm. All players are asked to be in Castlecomer for 1pm on Saturday.