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Looking ahead to the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship: Kilkenny

Kilkenny, last year during the Championship was not the Kilkenny that we are used to seeing. After their demise of last year, Kilkenny showed that they are back in tip-top form after winning the Allianz Division One League. We look how at the Cats will fare this year in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

In a new series on the Littlewoods Ireland Blog, we will be shining a spotlight on each team competing this summer in the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Today, we look at Kilkenny.

Onwards and Upwards

Kilkenny, last year during the Championship was not the Kilkenny that we are used to seeing. For the first time ever under the management of Brian Cody, The Cats failed to reach the All-Ireland Quarter-Final or Semi-Final.

During the Leinster Championship, they were beaten by a strong Wexford side, and Waterford then went on to beat them in Round 2 of the Qualifiers.

A year the Cats most likely want to forget.

If in 2018 though, you had any speculation that Kilkenny might have lost some of their magic, you might want to reconsider. After their demise of last year, Kilkenny showed that they are back in tip-top form after winning the Allianz Division One League.

Throughout the League, they had six successive wins and beating Tipperary in the final led them to their 18th League title.

Changes to be made

Kilkenny have clearly thought about what changes they need to make for this year’s campaign to avoid a repeat of last year.

Wexford’s Lee Chin has already seen some differences in the way they have been playing.
Speaking to The Sun, Chin said, ‘They’ve really modernised their game, playing a lot more of a running game, out from the backs, move the ball around a little bit, well, not a little bit, a lot different than what Cody would have allowed in the past, I imagine.’

Injury Time

Looking ahead to the Summer, their Championship prospects are looking bright. Brian Cody is undoubtedly delighted with the comeback his team has already shown.
Though they may have to begin their Leinster campaign without some key players.

Their captain Cillian Buckley played an outstanding game in the League Final. He was their anchor in defence, though he sustained an injury prior to the match.

Although he played the entire match, the injury now looks to have caught up with him, and it is likely that he could miss the first round of the Leinster Championship.

However, Kilkenny people have reported that Richie Hogan has overcome his long-standing injury and could make a come back in Kilkenny’s first test in the Leinster Championship, which takes place on the 13th of May, where they will face Dublin in Parnell Park.

The Cats received another boost as Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly will be returning home from army duty in Lebanon, and are sure to play a big part for Kilkenny come the summer time.


New Kids on the Block

Cody’s panel is transitioning, and this year sees the emergence of a new crop.

They will play without Michael Fennelly who has retired, but now it’s time for the new blood to establish themselves.

Martin Keoghan makes his debut for the Cats this year and has already made his mark on the pitch. The Kilkenny youngster is only 19 and was given the task of marking Tipperary captain Pádraic Maher during the Allianz League Final.

Keoghan played a pivotal role in the All Ireland U21 Final last year. His teammates from that panel Conor Delaney, Richie Leahy, John Donnelly, Alan Murphy and Luke Scanlon all have joined the Kilkenny senior team. Each one of these players saw some game action during the League Final.

Cody is clearly trying his new crop, providing them with game time before the Championship. They could make all the difference as the Cats chase the Leinster and All Ireland titles this year.

Kilkenny star TJ Reid has confidence that the new blood can boost Kilkenny’s game. Speaking to the42, he said, ‘That’s massive belief for those lads, knowing they can represent Kilkenny and knowing that they can perform and knowing they can take over.

“You have to give these lads a chance to make their own name. You have to give them a chance to establish. Ten years time it’ll be the likes of Conor Delaney or Enda Morrissey that’ll be the heroes for Kilkenny.”

8 April 2018; Cillian Buckley of Kilkenny during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final match between Kilkenny and Tipperary at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Back in Action

As Cody enters his 20th season as Kilkenny manager, they are serious contenders for Leinster and All Ireland titles. They face tough competition from the likes of Galway and Wexford in Leinster, and there will always be the fierce rivalry with Tipperary.

If you are doubting that Kilkenny may have a repeat of last year’s Championship, it doesn’t seem likely.

With the League titles in their pockets, fire in their bellies, and moreover points to prove, The Cats are back.

Littlewoods Ireland are proud sponsors of the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Keep yourself up to date with all the #StyleOfPlay here!

Ellen McConville

Typically found on the sidelines or in Croke Park, Ellen is the Sports Content Editor for Littlewoods Ireland and your go-to gal for all things GAA. A big lover of all things Christy Moore, fashion and some wine and cheese as well.

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