Galway v Kilkenny, Sunday, 8th July, Semple Stadium, Thurles, 3pm
So many questions. That’s what we were left with after last week’s game. We thought it would have provided us with some answers. We thought it would have provided us with further evidence that Galway were the heirs to Kilkenny’s throne as the best team in the country, and will go on to dominate the game for the next few years. But it didn’t turn out like that. What we thought was fact has actually proven to be a mere illusion. We don’t really know anything now. We just have more questions.
Here’s the thing though: we know that Leinster championship games can be held in Munster. It’s been done before. The provincial semi-finals in 2002 were in Semple Stadium. But, if that’s the case, why the hell can Munster Championship games not be played in Leinster? Why were Waterford fans and players being dragged all the way over to Limerick to play their game against Tipperary this year, when there was a perfectly acceptable ground, that was nearer to them (and one that Tipperary have a notoriously bad record in) in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny? Why is there one rule for one and not for the other? It’s ok for the Munster council to take money off the Leinster one, but not the other way round? That certainly seems to be the case anyway. It just beggars belief.
If last week’s game thought us anything, it was maybe that Galway aren’t as good as they think they are, and Kilkenny definitely aren’t as good as they were. The Kilkenny side of 2008 would have beaten Galway by at least ten, if not 15 points last Sunday. But, unfortunately for them, this isn’t the 2008 Kilkenny side. Of the starting six forwards from last weekend, only one, maybe two at a generous push, would have featured a decade ago. Of the other four, Billy Ryan had a promising debut, although his conversion rate was much lower than it should have been.
But there was a lesson to be learned for Cody in all of this: he has to get his starting selection right. Certainly Richie Hogan did more than enough coming on to be in line for a starting spot. Likewise John Donnelly. And for some reason Liam Blanchfield seems to have been cursed with that cruel “impact sub” status. Then you have Colin Fennelly who still has pace and a physicality that would trouble any defence. Cody is not inclined to do dummy teams, the majority of the time, but in this instance there seems to be a clear definition of who the Kilkenny form players are. He would be wise to give them the opportunity from the start.
If nothing else, he can take comfort from the fact his defence and midfield seems to be sorted. Padraig Walsh gave a JJ Delaney-esque performance at full back and, while Cillian Buckley may have been slightly fortunate to walk away with the man of the match award, he’s still one of the most athletic defenders around and an excellent distributor of possession. It’s telling how much his colleagues continuously pass him the ball. In fact, there seems to be a very defined leadership hierarchy along the spine of the Kilkenny side: Murphy, Walsh, Buckley, TJ and Wally. And if any of those pivotal players under-perform, the Cats are likely to be in trouble.