BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX: DANNY LAHART
Cheddar’s men mauled in Nowlan Park rout
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
UPMC Nowlan Park
Kilkenny 2-34 Laois 1-14
It’s two from two as Kilkenny prepare to head west next weekend for a catch-up with Henry.
Brian Cody made four changes from the first-round win over the Lake County, with David Blanchfield, Cian Kenny, Alan Murphy and Mossy Keoghan making way for Conor Browne, James Maher, John Donnelly and TJ Reid all getting the nod for the home tie with Laois.
Unlike proceedings in TEG Cusack Park, Kilkenny hit the ground running and found their groove as they set about dismantling Cheddar’s men. The O’Moore County side where somewhat unlucky in their opening round tie with Dublin, coming up just short, and no doubt their fans arrived at UPMC Nowlan Park expecting a hard, competitive game against the Cats.
Points from Eoin Cody and one each from Walsh’s Padraig and Walter signaled the home sides intent. TJ’s first start of the season in the black and amber saw him get what was to be the first of ten points for the Shamrocks legend. Baile na Coille man Cha Dwyer got the visitors first two scores, but you could sense it was going to be a long afternoon for the Laois men, who were missing 5 or 6 key players on the day.
Kilkenny’s latest attacking star, Padraig Walsh continued his impressive form and pointed to put his side three points ahead. James Keyes responded with a fine point as mid-landers looked to stay in touch, but another of the Ballyhale contingent, Adrian Mullen registered his first score of the day, after his club mate Eoin Cody blasted to the side netting, when a goal seemed inevitable. St Lachtains James Maher sent over a lovely point and this was followed by scores from the lively John Donnelly and a placed ball from TJ to extend the Cats lead to six.
Shamrocks Eoin Cody then had his sides second goal chance of the day, but saw his effort thwarted by Laois net minder Enda Rowland. The pressure was building, those in attendance could sense a potential mauling. Laois centre-forward, Paddy Purcell then fired over a much-needed point for Cheddar’s men, but TJ slotted over another free to restore his sides 6-point lead with 20 minutes on the clock.
The Ballyhale men then went on a burst of scoring, Adrian Mullen and TJ Reid with a brace each and twice crowned Young Hurler of the Year, Eoin Cody pointing to leave the score 0-15 to 0-4 after just 26 minutes. The O’Moore County’s response was a pair of points from PJ Scully and midfielder Aidan Corby. The Cats now led by 9 points, but that soon become 13. Walter popped over a nice point. Then a lovely long delivery from O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan was collected by Eoin Cody who then beat a couple of Laois defenders, before blasting an unstoppable shot past Rowland in the visitor’s goal.
The home crowd were enjoying the fare being served up by Cody’s Cats. Tullogher-Rosbercon’s Walter Walsh struck over another good score and the powerhouse was having a good half, in term of both scoring and strong-running, creating space for others.
Three further Kilkenny points arrived before the short whistle. TJ was first up, and shortly after both Thomastown’s John Donnelly and last year’s captain Adrian Mullen pointed to leave the half-time score line, Kilkenny 1-20, Laois 0-6. Kilkenny had been rampant in that opening half, but also managed to rack-up 12 wide’s in that period. Other than that stat, it was a pleasing first 35 minutes with only Billy Ryan the only forward who failed to score.
Indeed, when Kilkenny emerged from the Nowlan Park changing rooms, Graigue-Ballycallan’s Ryan had been replaced by Tullaroan’s Shane Walsh. Laois would strike first in the second period, through PJ Scully, but Padraig Walsh pointed straight away to restore the 17-point lead. TJ, clearly reveling in the start, notched another point before Scully sent over a placed ball for the visitors.
Eoin Cody fired over another point, as he put in his best performance for the county this year. While Laois were enjoying a little more possession in the 3rd quarter, a combination of strong Kilkenny defending and poor shooting ensured that the gap between the sides never reduced significantly. Such was the home sides dominance in the opening 50 minutes, Brian Cody was able to make some changes as the game progressed. Tom Phelan and captain Richie Reid were introduced for John Donnelly and Paddy Deegan respectively, as the manager tried to get some championship minutes into the squad.
A brace from Eoin Cody and another point from Walter Walsh canceled out any response that Laois mustered. Conor Delaney was then sprung from the bench to give O’Loughlin’s Huw Lawlor a rest as Brian Cody sought to protect some of his players with tougher challenges ahead.
Cheddar’s men give their travelling support something to cheer about, when on 57 minutes Paddy Purcell went on a weaving run before firing a shot past Eoin Murphy in the Kilkenny goal, to reduce the deficit to 17 points. Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan then struck over a lovely point, before two from Adrian Mullen and another from TJ Reid added to the ever-increasing Cats scoring total. Darragh Corcoran then replaced Tommy Walsh just after the hour marker. Tom Phelan then got on the end of a lovely flowing team move, involving the influential Adrian Mullen and finished nicely beyond Enda Rowland in the Laois goal.
Four more points would follow for the Noresiders, two for TJ Reid, and one a piece from Padraig Walsh, his fourth of the game and a second of the day from James Maher. Laois managed to tag on a few more points, as the final score line read, Kilkenny 2-34, Laois 1-14.
SCORERS – Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-10 (7f) E Cody 1-5 A Mullen 0-6 W. Walsh 0-4 T Phelan 1-1 P Walsh 0-4 J Donnelly 0-2 J Maher 0-2
SCORERS -Laois: P Purcell 1-2 (1f) PJ Scully 0-4 (4f) C Dwyer 0-3 J Keyes 0-1 A Corby 0-1 C McEvoy 0-1 R Mullaney 0-1 C Byrne 0-1
KILKENNY: E Murphy; M Butler, H Lawlor, T Walsh; M Carey, P Deegan, C Browne; J Maher, A Mullen; W Walsh, P Walsh, J Donnelly; B Ryan, TJ Reid, E Cody. Subs: S Walsh for Ryan ht R. Reid for Deegan 49mins C Delaney for Lawlor 56mins D Corcoran for T Walsh 63mins
Laois: E Rowland; D Hartnett, S Downey, F Fennell; R Mullaney, L O’Connell, C McEvoy; A Corby, J Kelly; C Dwyer, P Purcell, J Keyes; M Dowling, J Walsh, PJ Scully.
Subs: C. Byrne for Walsh 43mins E Killeen for Corby 51mins B McGinley for Dowling 57mins P. Dunne for O’Connell and R. Murphy for Scully 70mins
Referee: L Gordon (Galway)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
2 down, 3 to go. Westmeath and now Laois taken care off, both with relative ease. Following Laois’s decent performance against the Dubs, Cheddar was probably hoping for more of the same, but he would have been left very disappointed following this mauling at the hands of the Cats.
Yes, Laois were missing a number of first team regulars, but as we know, the inter-county game is about more than 15 players.
So, what of Brian Cody’s squad after this scoring fest? Well TJ is back. With a total of 0-10, he will have been happy with his scoring return against the O’Moore County. His Ballyhale comrades, Eoin Cody and Adrian Mullen also kept the scoreboard operator busy, notching 1-5 and 0-6 respectively.
Last year’s captain, Mullen will have been pleased with his all-round performance. Adrian was getting on plenty of ball and proving very influential across all areas of the pitch. His club mate Eoin Cody was lively throughout, and on another day, could have had a hat-trick of goals.
John Donnelly and James Maher will have given their manager plenty to think about as they plan for a little May Bank holiday trip to Galway. Both players scored a brace, and their overall contribution to Kilkenny’s victory won’t have gone unnoticed by their management team.
The fact they we don’t have much to say about Huw Lawlor, Mikey Butler and their defensive colleagues just shows how dominant the home side were throughout.
Attention now turns to what could be the match of the season so far. Shefflin vs Cody. When the draw was made, this is the fixture that all Gaels looked for. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint – and that Cody’s Cats secure win number 3.