THEY may have looked hugely impressive, powerful and imposing during the early rounds of the Allianz National Hurling League, but Kilkenny will be fighting for their lives when they entertain Galway in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
An impressive first round win over Tipperary was followed by a decent if not as sure footed a victory over Waterford, while a fair slice of luck was needed to down Dublin in round three.
However, Sunday’s reverse against rejuvenated Cork complicated matters, and now the Cats need a draw at least against Galway to propel them in the semi-finals.
And they will be chasing that point without hugely impressive attack leader, Richie Power, who was sent off against Cork. The Carrickshock man has been in powerful form since the season opened, shooting 1-11, 1-8, 0-10 and 1-11 again in the matches to date.
Scoring power a loss
Losing scoring power like that has to hurt the All-Ireland champions, who are already without the experienced Henry Shefflin (injured) and the retired Eddie Brennan from the All-Ireland final attack, plus ace defender, Jackie Tyrrell (injured ankle).
“That is par for the course in the League,” suggested Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody, when it was suggested results were going every way in the League.
“It happens like that every year in the League. That is the reality of it. In last year’s League final we were annihilated by Dublin. It is the way things work.”
The way results have gone, the outcome of all three matches in round five on Sunday – Waterford v Dublin; Kilkenny v Galway and Cork v Tipperary – are important. The top three finishers in Division IA qualify for the semi-finals, with scoring differences coming into play if two teams end level on points.
“We take the League seriously, always,” Mr Cody continued when asked about the defeat. “I wouldn’t suggest we weren’t trying to win. Of course we were.
“But at the end of the day, the year goes as it goes, and there is a process you go through and this is very much a part of it.”
Was the defeat a setback?
“I don’t know about the setback part. It is a defeat.”
Cork very good
Cork, he insisted, were very good. They were definitely the better team.
“I was very impressed with Cork,” he continued. “They could have won by more.”
He wasn’t in the slightest surprised by Cork’s good form, he said when questioned. He saw them against Waterford on the television and felt they were playing well.
“Cork were very impressive,” he continued. “It is a good result for them. They have the makings of a very serious team very quickly.
“We are not doing anything any different to any year, normal stuff, normal stuff, same as we always do. There is no mystery about this team. We are not any better than Cork. That is the reality at the moment, for sure.”
His view was that Kilkenny “were hurled throughout the field.”
“We played second fiddle in nearly every position,” he felt. “Cork were very, very good.
“We would be disappointed with the display. We would be disappointed with the result, of course we would. But at the same time you have to be realistic.
“We don’t expect to get through the League unbeaten. To come to Cork at any time is a big ask. Today it was too big an ask.”
ALLIANZ NHL Division IA
P W D L Pts
Kilkenny 4 3 0 1 6
Cork 4 3 0 1 6
Tipperary 4 2 1 1 5
Galway 4 2 0 2 4
Waterford 4 1 0 3 2
Dublin 4 0 1 3 1