WHILE the final result didn’t go their way an entertaining challenge against Athy provided the Kilkenny youths with a good workout ahead of their Culleton Cup fixture.
Athy were made to work hard by a Kilkenny side who took the opportunity to give the entire available panel some much-needed game time. Missing their two main strike runners Paddy Mullen and Rikki Drennan, who have both been called in to the county minor hurling training panel, Kilkenny were short of a finishing edge but still were well in contention until near the end.
Playing with the wind the visitors dominated the first 15 minutes but resolute defence meant Kilkenny conceded only one try to the visitors. Gradually the new-look hosts fought back and took the game to Athy before another bout of continuity play saw centre Cormac Connolly score a good try to level the game before half-time.
Ringing the changes at the break, the second half was even for long spells but the new combinations in the line outs meant a lack of cohesion. Two breakaways saw Athy score when winning a Kilkenny scrum against the head through Leinster panelist Jeremy Loughman and prop Toure while they scored a third when Kilkenny were attending to an injured player.
Kilkenny finished the stronger, creating a series of chances but James Rafter was held over the line, while Colin Hutchinson was unlucky not to get a final pass away to winger David Sutton. Sean Moran also saw a pass go to ground while under pressure with a big overlap outside before Gary Dunne made his way over for a try and then scored a penalty to give the hosts some consolation.
Despite the result there were plenty of positives for Kilkenny. Half-backs Sutton and Hutchinson had their best outing as a pair this season while the midfield defence of Hutchinson, Moran and Connolly were strong throughout. Newcomers David Kennedy in the second row and John Downey made solid debuts while David Sutton, the youngest player on the pitch, showed up strongly in the second half with safe fielding and good running.
The youths will have another challenge match this weekend, travelling to Enniscorthy on Saturday (kick-off 12.30pm).
Kilkenny: Cian Smith, Nick Furness, James Rafter, Danny Nolan, John Curtin, Shaun Fitzgerald, Matty Cassin, David Kennedy, Ciaran Martin, Tommy Cuddihy, Gary Dunne, Craig Murphy, Ciaran Sutton, Luke Rafter, Peter Hutchinson, Cormac Connolly, Sean Moran, Colin Corcoran, Robbie Hennessy, David Sutton, John Downey, Will Bergin.
Kilkenny first team coach Pat McDonald can be proud of his work with the under-17 front rows as his own mentor, former Irish prop and Leinster scrum coach development officer Reggie Corrigan, was highly impressed with the technique of the Kilkenny scrum who acted as demonstration pack for the attending coaches at a scrum clinic which was held in Foulkstown last week.
Following some excellent displays over the last few months and having impressed the Leinster scrum coach in live sessions prop Nick Feehan has been nominated to join his club-mates Sean Moran and Gary Dunne on the Leinster Youth training panel.