Colin Fennelly (left) will lead the Ballyhale Shamrocks attack in the All-Ireland club hurling championship
Kilkenny GAA folk have just feasted on Christmas fare, and very shortly they will be able to gorge on their favourite hurling diet with the New Year action coming up thick and fast.
During January alone there will be four very enticing games to lure fans from the fireside, with serious action at club and inter-county level.
It is a long time since the January games programme was so packed. With three local clubs carrying the Kilkenny and Leinster hopes in the All-Ireland series, the opening month of 2019 is far from the average.
On top of that, Brian Cody’s men will see action in the Bord na Mona Walsh Cup - one game at least - before they open in the Allianz National League at the end of the month with an alluring home tie against Cork.
All in all January is going to be a busy time. The 2018 big games programme finished three days before Christmas with a high class under-21 Roinn A hurling final between Ballyhale Shamrocks and O’Loughlin Gaels.
There won’t be much time for people to draw their breath before the action starts off again.
Kilkenny will kick off the action. They got a bye into the Walsh Cup semi-final. That tie will be played on Sunday, January 13.
The final has been fixed for the following week, so there is a possibility of Kilkenny being involved there too.
Earlier this year Kilkenny and Wexford contested the Walsh Cup final. The Slaneysiders took the honours after a ‘frees shoot-out’.
Ironically, Kilkenny’s last match of the season was also decided on a ‘frees shoot-out’. In that case it was against Galway in the Wild Geese tournament match at the Irish Festival in Sydney.
The Cats have been back training for some weeks now. While they are working off a big and fluid panel again, it is not as large as this time last year when over 50 players were involved.
It will be interesting to see how they cope in the absence of T.J. Reid, Joey Holden, Colin Fennelly and whoever else will be involved from the Shamrocks.
Reid was the chief score getting for the county throughout last season, so his absence will be felt as Kilkenny set out to defend the League title.
The victories of Shamrocks, Graigue-Ballycallan and Dunnamaggin in the Leinster senior, intermediate and junior club hurling championships was the fifth time the county completed the clean sweep in Leinster.
The hat-trick was also achieved in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2014. All face strong Munster opposition in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Having one, two or three teams in All-Ireland finals would vary from marvellous to very good. There is an alternative, but let’s not ponder on that…..let’s be positive for 2019.
Time to get the scarf and Winter woolies out. There is lots of enticing action on the way quickly!
Some of the important dates and games coming up in 2019:
Walsh Cup Senior Hurling tournament
Kilkenny, Galway and Wexford into semi-finals on January 13. Final will be played on January 20.
All-Ireland club IHC semi-final
Graigue-Ballycallan v Charleville (Cork) in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday, January 19 (2pm).
All-Ireland club JHC semi-final
Dunnamaggin (Kilkenny) v Cloughduv (Cork) in Fraher Field, Dungarvan on Sunday, January 20 (2pm). Extra time if necessary.
All-Ireland club SHC semi-final
Ballyhale Shamrocks v Ballygunner (Waterford) in Semple Stadium, Thurles (5pm) on Saturday, February 9. Extra time if necessary.
January 27 - Kilkenny v Cork, Nowlan Park (2pm)
February 3 - Clare v Kilkenny, Cusack Park (2pm)
February 17 - Kilkenny v Limerick, Nowlan Park (2pm)
February 24 - Tipperary v Kilkenny, Thurles (2pm).
March 3 - Wexford v Kilkenny, Wexford Park (2pm).
The quarter-finals will be played on March 10; the semi-finals on Saturday, March 16 and the final on Sunday, March 24.
Kilkenny senior and intermediate HL/C:
Round One - weekend of April 6/7
Round Two - weekend of April 20/21
Round Three - Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21 and 22 (provisional)
Round Robin Leinster senior hurling championship schedule:
Round One - May 11, Kilkenny at home against Dublin.
Round Two - May 18/19, Kilkenny away to Carlow.
Round Three - Kilkenny a bye.
Round Four - June 8/9, Kilkenny at home to Galway.
Round Five - June 15/16, Kilkenny away to Wexford.
All-Ireland intermediate hurling championship final
July 20/21 - Kilkenny v Cork. No venue agreed yet.
Electric Ireland Leinster MHC
Round One - Kilkenny v Dublin, April 27 at Kilkenny venue
Round Two - Wexford v Kilkenny, May 4 at Wexford venue
Round Three - Kilkenny v Offaly, May 18 at Kilkenny venue
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.