As one great season ends, another rolls in

Another inter-county senior hurling championship season has barely ended but we are already starting to focus on next year.

Another inter-county senior hurling championship season has barely ended but we are already starting to focus on next year.

For Kilkenny, 2014 will have a similar start to this year with the Cats once again facing Offaly in its opening Leinster championship encounter. It wasn’t easy in Tullamore this time. It won’t be easy in Nowlan Park in 2014.

Offaly is currently looking for a new manager. Drawing Kilkenny in the championship may make it a bit more difficult to recruit a new boss. The likelihood, though, is that proud club and county man Danny Owens will assume the role once his club activity ends with Kilcormac Killoughey.

Owens’ appointment could be good news for Offaly. His club retained their Offaly title and they also stand a good chance of repeating last year’s success in Leinster.

More importantly, with Owens as team manager Offaly may well have the Kilcormac Killoughey players on board for the National Hurling League. A good League run would make Offaly a serious side in the opening round of the Leinster championship.

A victory for Kilkenny over Offaly would see them facing Galway in a Leinster semi-finals. There is no doubt that the province is shaping up to be a tough battle ground.

Accolades from afar!

Back to this year and a surprise editorial last week in the British publication ‘The Guardian’ which spoke in glowing terms of the recent Clare versus Cork All-Ireland hurling final.

It was no surprise that anyone would write so positively about the final, but to read a British newspaper founded as far back as 1821, writing in such glowing terms about the game and the sense of occasion will surely not have been lost on its British readership.

This is not the first occasion that a British newspaper has lauded Ireland’s national game. But this time the editorial went as far as comparing the sport of hurling to its own major sport of soccer and its pompous over-paid athletes.

Many sporting pundits share those views but to see it written in a major British newspaper says a lot about how it now views its closest neighbour and our attitude to sporting rivalry among our communities.

The recent All-Ireland final replay has been labelled ‘the greatest game of all time’. For sure the replay, and indeed the drawn tie, was a contest that kept supporters on the edge of their seats for 70 minutes.

The range of scores and in particular the eight goals had the full house in raptures.

The first touch and the pace of many of the players set up some hugely impressive scores.

The energy, vision and commitment from the players were top class and as good as we have ever seen on hurling’s biggest day.

Less than impressive defending

Over the two games eleven goals were conceded, six by Clare and five by Cork. Both attacks deserve credit for finding the route to goal so rewarding and the adoring supporters from both sides loved every minute of it.

Leaving aside the emotion of either winning or losing the biggest game of the year, at times the defending on both sides left a lot to be desired.

That’s not meant to be a criticism but classic finals involve great defending as well as great scoring

There was something very similar about the playing style of both of this year’s All-Ireland champions, Clare and Dublin. It appeared that both teams approached their games with the firm belief that no matter what the opposition scored they would get at least one point more.

Sit at top table

Teams, though, require a certain type of player to adopt such an approach. Dublin and Clare had them this year, but the same approach may not work next year.

Clare now sits proudly at the top of the hurling ladder. Senior and under-21 All-Ireland titles have been secured – and very impressively at that.

The next couple of months will be demanding on those young Clare men as they rightly celebrate their double title achievement. The Spring, though, will bring many new challenges for the new champions, as it will for all other counties, Kilkenny included.