Kilkenny travelled to Walsh Park last Sunday as hot favourites to overcome Waterford, but history has shown that the Waterford City venue has regularly proven to be a difficult spot to pick up two league points.
For 35 minutes the home side kept pace with their more experienced opponents, but one always felt that Kilkenny were playing well within themselves and would come good in the second half.
So too I suspect did the Kilkenny mentors because the players upped their game considerably after the break. Waterford could not match the heightened work ethic and industry of the Cats and the game was decided long before the finish.
Kilkenny appeared a little lethargic at times during the first half, but that was understandable as many of the players have had little rest between the Walsh Cup, National League and the Inter-Provincial series in recent weeks.
Waterford’s failure to capitalise in the first half was partly due to the erratic free-taking of Paraic Mahony. He missed at least four easy frees which would have seen his side lead at the interval.
Waterford must have realised right from the throw-in at the start of the second half that Kilkenny were in a very different mood. The Cats began to dominate all over the field and the Déise was fortunate that the margin of victory was only nine points at the finish.
Waterford are short a number of players at present, but it is clear that after two league outings Michael Ryan has a big challenge ahead. I alluded elsewhere this week to the sheer physicality and strength of the Kilkenny players.
Nice young hurlers
Waterford has plenty of nice young hurlers in its panel at present, but they are ill-prepared to cope with the strength and physicality of Kilkenny. It is going to take many hours of intense gym work for the Waterford players to match the power and energy of Kilkenny.
Apart from securing two valuable points, last Sunday’s victory saw a number of players make their league debuts. That is a real bonus for these young men, as the confidence gained from this competitive action with more experienced colleagues will be invaluable come the summer.
Dublin come to Nowlan Park on Sunday and after two League defeats this is a must win game for the Metropolitans. On current form Kilkenny will be difficult to defeat and the game will be a real test of the character of Anthony Daly’s side.