BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Lyng’s men ready for Dubs challenge
2023 Leinster GAA SHC
Kilkenny vs Dublin
UPMC Nowlan Park, Saturday 6pm
>> SHERRY SAYS Dublin Preview
Kilkenny welcomes the Dubs to UPMC Nowlan Park tomorrow evening in round four of this year’s Leinster Hurling Championship, knowing that victory will keep them on the right path for successfully defending their provincial crown. With just two group games remaining, Derek Lyng will be seeking to record another win before the team makes the short trip to Chadwicks Wexford Park a week later to face Darragh Eagan’s struggling Yellowbellies.
Dublin will roll into town tomorrow, buoyed by recent results, particularly their recent win in Croker over Wexford. Micheál Donoghue’s men had 2 points to spare over the Slaneysiders and will not be lacking in confidence when entering Kilkenny’s den.
The men from the capital have a real talisman in Donal Burke and the Na Fianna man has been in fine form as his side have navigated their provincial campaign. Last day out Burke finished the game with 0-13, a tally which included 10 placed ball scores. Burke is to Dublin what TJ is to Kilkenny. His accuracy from the dead ball is unerring.
This season’s battle for the Bob O’Keefe Cup has seen Dublin records two wins and a draw from their opening three games. Their first outing saw them take the trip north to Corrigan Park to face Antrim and it took a late score from Cian O’Sullivan to claim a share of the spoils on a wet day in Belfast. O’Sullivan hit 0-6 that day to keep top scorer Donal Burke company as they denied Darren Gleeson’s men a confidence boosting win.
Their second group game saw them face Westmeath in Parnell Park, and they had to go through the gears before a dominant second half performance saw them claim maximum points with 12 points to spare at the long whistle. The Lake County men lead for most of the opening period, but that man Burke again spearheaded the Dublin revival, notching 1-9 while Cian Boland hit 1-2 as no fewer than 10 men in blue got on the scoresheet.
Dublin’s game at headquarters against Wexford saw them see off the Yellowbellies challenge by 2-points, and again as mentioned, Donal Burke was in superb form notching 0-13, while Cian O’Sullivan hit 1-2 as they got the better of a Lee Chin led side.
There are some quality hurlers in the Captial other than star of the show Burke, and the likes of Alex Considine, Paul Crummey, Cian’s Boland and O’Sullivan along with Ronan Hayes and Danny Sutcliffe can all offer options to Micheál Donoghue as he seeks to engineer a huge upset tomorrow.
At the back Eoghan O’Donnell, Daire Gray, Paddy’s Smyth and Doyle will look to quell the Cats attack and try to prevent keeper Sean Brennan from being called into action too often. O’Donnell is their Rolls Royce in defence, and they will hope he leads by example and keeps his man quiet.
The Cats are aiming to defend their Leinster title and to do that, they will most likely face-off against Henry’s Galway, but Derek Lyng will have reminded his charges to get the job done over the next two weekends to ensure his charges in black and amber arrive in Croke Park with momentum and in a good run of form.
Currently, Kilkenny sit just behind Galway on scoring difference, level on five points after the opening trio of group games. It’s as close as you can get – The Tribesmen have conceded just one point less than the Noresiders.
Westmeath were first up for the Cats, and they had a 22-point winning margin against Joe Fortune’s side. TJ Reid made his intercounty return and his first appearance since helping his Shamrocks Ballyhale side to another All-Ireland club title in January and top scored with 9 points in the facile victory in UPMC Nowlan Park. His clubmate Adrian Mullen was in fine scoring form too, hitting 0-6 while Thomastown’s John Donnelly notched 4 points in the win.
The second game saw an intriguing tie with Henry’s Westerners, and this battle of the ‘big two’ didn’t disappoint with those in attendance witnessing a cracking game which ended all square, again TJ hitting 0-9 and shaking a little bit more rust off with another accurate display.
Like tomorrow’s opponents, Kilkenny made the journey north to Belfast to face Antrim and this game was a high scoring affair with 8 goals and 51 points registered over the 70-odd minutes.
While TJ finished with a tally of 2-10, it was Tullaroan’s Mossy Keoghan who returned to the starting line-up and bagged a hat-trick of goals in an eye-catching display. The Kilkenny management team won’t have been pleased with the scoring tally given up to The Saffrons and will undoubtably have been working on tightening up things over the past week or so.
When the Cats met Dublin in the Allianz league in March, Derek Lyng’s men ran out comfortable winners at tomorrow’s venue, with Galmoy’s Billy Drennan starring. An 11-point win over the blues in a game where Kilkenny never really got out of second gear. Again, Donal Burke top scored for his side with 11 points while Alex Considine was a constant threat to the Cats defence.
In recent weeks it has been reported that Young Ireland’s Mikey Carey has rejoined Derek Lyng’s squad, having opted out after last season’s All-Ireland defeat to Limerick, with the talented wing-back deciding to travel across Asia and Australia. If Carey has decided to ‘stay put’ for the rest of the hurling season, this could well be a great bonus for the Marble County.
Captain Eoin Cody has been looking sharp recently and will hope to continue his good form against Dublin. His ability to link play with others in the Kilkenny attack will be crucial as the summer continues. Cody’s understanding with clubmates TJ Reid and Adrian Mullen gives an extra dimension to the teams forward play.
Derek Lyng may decide to shuffle his pack again tomorrow, but I’d imagine the likes of Mossy Keoghan will be chomping at the bit to go again, following his 3-3 against Antrim. Graigue Ballycallan’s Billy Ryan will also be hoping to get another run-out against Dublin and his skill and pace are great assets to the team.
One player that has looked very much at home in the black and amber is another Shamrocks Ballyhale man, Darragh Corcoran. The talented youngster has been deployed both at midfield and in defence and its at wing-back that he has looked most comfortable and more importantly dangerous. Corcoran has tightened up the half- back line but also proved to be a great attacking weapon for the Cats and has notched some scores as well.
Kilkenny will be acutely aware of the challenge that tomorrow’s opponents pose, but there should be enough quality in black and amber to secure a third victory in this year’s Leinster Championship and head to Wexford a week later with everything in their own hands.
All good things come to those