The championship may have started with a stroll, but Brian Cody expects the pace will quicken when Galway stand in their way this weekend.
After easing into Leinster with a facile win over Offaly, Kilkenny will get a tougher test when they lock horns with Galway in the provincial semi-final this Sunday (throw-in 4pm).
Tullamore will host the meeting of East versus West. It was also the venue when the sides met for the first time in the new-look championship of 2009 when the newcomers almost caused a shock.
“We were tested to the limits,” said Cody, recalling that Leinster semi-final when the Cats edged past Galway on a 2-20 to 3-13 scoreline.
“We played second fiddle for a long time in that game but came good at the end. There have been many matches since then; we’ve played in Leinster and All-Ireland finals. The level of competition in all those games has been serious. Sunday will be the same again.”
Kilkenny will go into Sunday’s game with as close to a completely clean bill of health as they could hope for. The absence of the injured Michael Rice is a blow, but the Cats will be able to welcome others back into the fold.
“Michael is gone, but otherwise we are pretty good,” the manager said. “Both Henry (Shefflin) and Richie (Power) have recovered while T.J. Reid is also fine. He got a bang on the side of his knee in the Offaly game, but has trained well since.”
The Offaly game was made memorable by the way Kilkenny roared into the championship. Racking up a 26-point win, it was clear that the Cats had been helped by the intensity of their League final against Tipperary.
“That was great preparation for the championship,” Cody said of the high-octane NHL final, which needed extra-time to find a winner.
“That did help, as Offaly didn’t have the same intensity in their games coming into that Leinster quarter-final.
“We got on top in the game early on,” he said, speaking of the 5-32 to 1-18 win over the Faithful County. “We didn’t have as tough a test as Galway, who were worryingly pushed to the limits by Laois. Winning a tough game like that will help prepare them for the next challenge.”
Coming through that test in Portlaoise - a late surge saw Galway get past their hosts on a 1-22 to 0-23 scoreline - was a real test of the Tribes panel.
“That’s for sure,” Cody agreed. “Galway were tested every which way. Laois played powerfully well and controlled the game, but Galway showed their panel’s strength.
“They showed their resilience; there was no sense of panic about Galway,” he said. “I was at the game and they never looked as if they were about to worry. They made some good moves and got some good scores from long range and very good forward play.
“The result wasn’t a surprise as many would have expected Galway to win that game,” he added. “Regardless of that game, over the last number of years Kilkenny and Galway have been an ‘on the day’ thing.
“Whichever team is spot on usually wins the game. We’re both capable of winning it.”