SUCCESS on the inter-county scene could leave club hurling in Kilkenny sitting on the sideline.
Clubs should be looking forward to playing the last round of the senior and intermediate hurling leagues this weekend, but Kilkenny’s loss to Galway in the Leinster final has forced a reshuffle of the fixture list.
Now the final round of senior and intermediate hurling league games won’t be played until after the Cats’ involvement in the senior All-Ireland hurling championship is over.
The reason for the change in direction is down to the upcoming game in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. When fixtures are drawn up at the start of the year Kilkenny usually plan their games around Brian Cody’s side taking the direct route. Defeat to Galway, and a meeting with Limerick in the final eight on July 29, means that club games scheduled for this weekend have been shelved as the inter-county hurlers combine training duties with sufficient rest ahead of the match in Semple Stadium. Under GAA rules, senior inter-county players are entitled to 13 days’ rest from all club games before playing with their county teams.
While Kilkenny Co Board has not named new dates for the matches, it has confirmed that they will not be played until September.
“The last round of the leagues will be played the week immediately after all Kilkenny teams are finished in the All-Ireland championships,” said Co Board chairman Paul Kinsella. “We decided not to play games on the August Bank Holiday Weekend as many players would have already made arrangements for that time - one of the reasons we bring out the fixtures book in March is so people can have certainties when it comes to arranging game dates.”
The fourth round of senior and intermediate club games saw a welcome return to action for some of the players who missed that Leinster final. J.J. Delaney played the full 60 minutes at centre-back for the Fenians (Johnstown) with no ill-effects, while Michael Fennelly was a second half substitute as the Ballyhale Shamrocks maintained their 100% league record.
The weekend didn’t offer a completely clean bill of health, however. Colin Fennelly missed the Shamrocks game, while Cillian Buckley was absent from the Dicksboro team that lost to James Stephens. Brian Hogan could also be a doubt for the Limerick match, the O’Loughlin Gaels defender suffering a leg injury in his club’s drawn game with Erin’s Own (Castlecomer).
Incidentally, Kilkenny will be hoping to complete a hat-trick when they take on Limerick in the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland championship.
The match, the second leg of a doubler header at Semple Stadium on July 29 - Cork and Waterford will have first billing - will only be the third time that the Cats have played the Treaty County in championship games under Brian Cody.
Form is on Kilkenny’s side, as they have won both games since the James Stephens man took over as manager in 1999.
The first meeting was in the 2005 All-Ireland semi-final, when Kilkenny won by 0-18 to 0-13. The most recent championship game between the sides was the 2007 All-Ireland final, which Kilkenny won by 2-19 to 1-15.
Kilkenny also won the last game between the teams, scoring a 2-17 to 0-16 win in the National Hurling League back in 2010.
Much like Kilkenny, Limerick are not without their injury worries ahead of the game. Manager John Allen could be without Paul Browne and Conor Allis, who are still receiving treatment for the injuries that kept them out of the Treaty County’s win over Clare at the weekend.