It will be all hands on deck with Kilkenny from the start of the 2014 hurling season.
Whereas in the past two years the Cats fielded the under-21 squad in the pre-season Walsh Cup tournament, this time the full senior panel will be on duty.
Manager Brian Cody and fellow selectors, Michael Dempsey (St Joseph’s), James McGarry (Bennettsbridge) and Derek Lyng (Emeralds) will be on the sideline when the National League champions open in the Leinster Council promoted tournament on January 19 against either DIT or Westmeath.
That game will be played in either Kilkenny or Mullingar because as invited guests in the competition DIT must play all their matches away no matter how far they progress.
The Noresiders, who failed to make the All-Ireland semi-finals this season for the first time in 16 years, would be interested in getting three games in the Walsh Cup which finishes on February 2, two weeks before the start of the National League.
Champs v champs
Provisional fixtures for the ’League have a champions versus champions tie penned in for the opening round on February 16. This clash in Ennis would feature All-Ireland champions, Clare against Kilkenny, which would be a huge crowd puller.
The defending champions have been pencilled in for three attractive home games in the ’League against Tipperary, Galway and Waterford. The fact they have three homes ties could mean they would be away if they qualify for the quarter-finals.
Teams playing at home three times during the preliminaries forfeit home advantage in the quarters if they are pitted against a county that played two home ties. If both counties have enjoyed three home fixtures, then they toss for venue.
Meanwhile, Kilkenny will be in action in a senior tournament game against Wexford in New Ross on Sunday week, December 8. This is a fund-raiser to help meet the medical expenses of Wexford player, Tomas Waters, who severed a cruciate ligament during the All-Ireland Qualifiers clash against Clare during the summer.
The self employed 27-year-old suffered a setback after surgery, and he won’t be returning to work any time soon. The Wexford County Board stepped in to help, and Kilkenny were only too willing to lend a hand when asked.
There was a ‘bucket collection’ for the fund during Sunday’s Leinster club intermediate final between the Rower-Inistioge and Buffers Alley (Wexford), but the inter-county tie is expected to be the big earner.
Manager Brian Cody, who will lead the All-Stars on the tour to Shanghai at the end of the week, said Kilkenny would use the match as an opportunity to look at players for the 2014 squad. No thought, as yet, had been given to what team might lineout.
The selectors reviewed this year’s squad and discussed different options, but no definite panel has been confirmed, apparently. The county will operate with an open ended panel during the upcoming National League, the manager revealed.
Provisional Allianz National Hurling League fixtures - February 16, Clare v Kilkenny in Ennis; February 23, Kilkenny v Tipperary in Nowlan Park; March 9, Kilkenny v Galway in Nowlan Park; Saturday, March 15 (7pm), Dublin v Kilkenny in Parnell Park; March 23, Kilkenny v Waterford in Nowlan Park.
March 30 - NHL quarter-finals; April 20 - NHL semi-finals; May 4 - NHL final.
Walsh Cup fixtures - January 19, Kilkenny v DIT or Westmeath in Kilkenny or Mullingar; January 26, semi-final in Kilkenny (if Kilkenny qualify); February 2, final.
Kilkenny champions, Lisdowney will go in search of the county’s fourth Leinster club title - two camogie, senior and intermediate, and intermediate hurling already won - when they play Ballinamere (Offaly) in the provincial final in Tullamore on Sunday (2pm).
Lisdowney will be at full strength. Attackers Paddy Bowden, who scored two goals in the semi-final before departing with a knee injury, has recovered, as has Edward Kenny, who had to be helped from the field after being kicked in the ribs. At the same time as this game, the Leinster club senior hurling final between Oulart-the-Ballagh (Wexford) and Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow) will be played in Nowlan Park.