The last two years were disappointing at inter-county minor level for Kilkenny. That inevitably places some pressure on the current squad of players to make better progress this year, writes Nickey Brennan.
A new management team is in place and that always brings its own level of expectation. In fairness to the last management team they spared no effort in their quest for success.
Effort good, but...
I saw many of the minor games over the past two years and while the efforts of the players were laudable, the squad did not possess the quality which is required to be successful.
That happens, even in Kilkenny. Having witnessed this year’s squad demolish Laois on Saturday in Nowlan, the signs are certainly looking better in 2013. Sometimes easy victories at this level can be dangerously deceptive, so caution is urged when assessing the prospects for Kilkenny minor hurling this year.
Laois travelled to Kilkenny with real expectations that they could defeat the Cats. Their squad has been together for a number of years, so a large Laois following came expectantly to Nowlan Park. The physique of the Laois boys more than matched that of their opponents, but the real test
would come down to whether they could match the skill of the Cats.
Needed a lead
Laois had the advantage of the stiff breeze in the opening half and they stayed close to Kilkenny most of the way. But if the side was to have any chance of success a sizeable interval lead was required as they would face the breeze in the second half.
Five minutes into the new half the game was effectively over when Kilkenny scored two rather soft goals. One of these came from an 80 metre free which evaded the Laois defence to end up in the back of the net.
Those goals deflated Laois and allowed the young Kilkenny men to take a firm grip on the game. Moments before Kilkenny scored those goals Laois should have scored a goal but an attacker failed to connect with the ball following a good pass.
The two ingredients we always associate with Laois hurling are passion and commitment. Both were sadly lacking. The players looked slow and ponderous for a lot of the game, and particularly during the second half.
At times they played almost like a group that had only been together for a short period and we know that was certainly not the case.
Laois hardly contested a ball in the midfield as Kilkenny’s Ciarán Ryan and Stephen Farrell totally dominated. Young Ryan was the outstanding player on view. One of the principle differences between the two teams was Kilkenny’s ability to find each other in open space with a deft delivery.
Some of the Laois support play was quite good, but they could not match the smart play of their opponents. Once Kilkenny grabbed those early second half goals Laois was chasing the game.
A dominant player
Maybe if they had a dominant player in a key position or two they might have been able to rally each other, but the players looked deflated entering the final quarter. The young Laois men kept battling and were rewarded with a late goal, but they will look back on this performance with much disappointment. I am sure they can play a lot better.
Kilkenny looked efficient and capable. The first touch from the players was very good and much of the play was executed at speed. The Cats were ready for a stern challenge from Laois, but it failed to materialise.
Much tougher tests await the players, but for now everyone involved with the team can be happy with a good afternoon’s work.