A victory is the guaranteed way forward for Kilkenny in Wexford

John Knox

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John Knox

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A victory is the guaranteed way forward for Kilkenny in Wexford

Paddy Deegan is enjoying a good season with Kilkenny

There was extra delight because of who was beaten, and additional joy heaped on that again because of the all consuming nature of the hard to credit finish, so people need to be balanced in their summary of the goings on in Semple Stadium on Sunday.
A battling and exciting finish which ended in victory helped shorten the journey home for Kilkenny followers after Tipperary were beaten and sent crashing to the floor of Division 1A of the Allianz National Hurling League.
The winners most certainly did well to pick themselves up after the potentially crushing defeat by All-Ireland champions, Limerick, in their own Nowlan Park the previous week.
Manager Brian Cody suggested after Sunday’s match that he knew Kilkenny weren’t as bad as they looked against Limerick, when the concession of 2-3 during a few crazy minutes in the run up to the break knocked his side out of kilter.
Still he couldn’t have been 100% sure how things might work out walking into the Tipp challenge, and in Semple Stadium at that.
Managers and coaches can have gut feelings about players watching them on the training ground and so on, but they can never be absolutely certain that all in the mind is right until that real sorter - pressure - is applied during a no holds barred match.
Reacted strongly
As things turned out, Kilkenny reacted strongly and performed reasonably well and won in Thurles. It wasn’t the perfect performance, and neither should anyone expect it to have been because we are in the early chapters of the season when notes are scribbled for the real volume to be written later in the summer.
Tipperary made mistakes and missed scores. They were beaten.
Kilkenny made less mistakes, missed less open chances, and they won by a point, albeit by producing a stirring comeback.
That comeback was necessary because the Cats went 21 minutes and conceded six points on the trot during their darkest period of the second half. You won’t do that on too many days and still have something to celebrate, so let no one get too carried away.
The result was great. Enjoy. But move on. The building continues.
The result left Kilkenny within touching distance of making the League quarter-finals (see What now in League), but they have another tricky assignment against Wexford in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday (2pm).
There are lots of permutations regarding the possible outcome. The simple, cleanest option is to beat Wexford and then Kilkenny are guaranteed involvement in the quarter-finals.
The same applies to Wexford by the way.
Might not be the end
A defeat for either county might not be the end of the League road. A certain run of results might see their numbers come up and they could edge through, but the best way to do business is to take charge of your own destiny….win.
The longer Kilkenny can stay involved in the League the better. The guys involved in the panel right now are going to see out the business because the Ballyhale Shamrock contingent will hardly be available.
Shamrocks are involved in the All-Ireland club final against St Thomas (Galway) on Sunday, March 17, the day after the League semi-finals. The League final is fixed for the week after that again, Sunday, March 24.
Now, even if Kilkenny were lucky enough to get that far, it seems a stretch that the Shamrocks lads would be asked to play. That is all in the realm of ‘perhaps and maybe’ at the moment, so let’s park it.
What to make of last Sunday and where to go now is the thing.
The best of the news from Thurles was the good hurling of full-back, Conor Delaney. The good news included the continued and further improvement of Paddy Deegan, who is far from a seasoned campaigner it must be remembered; the quick progress of Padraig Walsh and Walter Walsh after being out of action for a long time, plus the return of former Hurler of the Year, Richie Hogan, who now needs to get a decent run of game action.
One liked the hang tough showings of Tommy Walsh and Martin Keoghan too, and the neat stick work of Jason Cleere. That trio can be left to blossom with time and exposure in the knowledge that they are progressing.
Will the selectors opt for much change against Wexford? Hardly, although one would like to see Padraig Walsh tried at No. 6 at some stage.
At assured place
Paddy Deegan has done well there. But you must always be looking at and for options.
It appears Deegan has arrived at the assured stage where he would do well in virtually any position in defence - not full-back - and maybe even in midfield where he has played effectively in the past.
The O’Loughlin Gaels man has a great spirit about him, and during Kilkenny’s worst times on Sunday he was the fist waver, the driver of others as the Cats sought to catch hold of the game in a bid to get back into it.
We have been hearing repeatedly in recent weeks that Kilkenny haven’t the men, the leaders they had during the glory days of the not too distant past. Well, for me, Deegan is shaping up to be one of the new generation of leaders.
Padraig Walsh will be one too, so the more central role he can be given to bring his physical might, power, speed and hurling into play the better for the collective.
Two difficult days
The Wexford challenge, we would expect, will be different to that mounted by Tipperary. The Premier men were happy, it appeared, to play 15-on-15, which suited Kilkenny down to the ground.
Tipp did attempt to employ the running, short passing game at times, but they haven’t worked on it to the degree Limerick, Clare, Cork and Wexford have.
After Kilkenny endured two difficult days against the Limerick and Clare runners, it will be most interesting to see what game plan Wexford employ. Expect runners, and probably a sweeper too.
Wexford have already beaten Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup this season. The highs of Thurles were grand, but it will be back to business on Sunday.

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