BY NIALL SHERRY
Avoid defeat in Wexford and we’ll see Henry in Croker!
Walsh Cup (Round 2)
Rathdowney, Co. Laois
Laois 2-21 Kilkenny 3-31
It’s two from two for Derek Lyng’s Kilkenny as the Cats came away with the points following a comprehensive 13-point win over Laois in Rathdowney last weekend. It sets up an intriguing clash against Darragh Eagan’s Wexford under the Chadwicks Park lights tomorrow evening. The arithmetic is simple – avoid defeat to the Yellowbellies, and Kilkenny will secure a final berth.
The Cats were 5-up at the short whistle, thanks to a double of major’s from Galmoy’s Billy Drennan, before moving through the gears in the second half as their class showed.
Willie Maher’s charges came out of the blocks quickly and raced into an early 3-point lead thanks to points from Goalkeeper and long-range free specialist Enda Rowland, and the lovely forward PJ Scully. The visitors hit back with points from Cian Kenny (2) Clara’s Paul Cody and David Blanchfield.
The O’Moore men were going well and were causing the Kilkenny rearguard a few problems and they tagged on another few scores from James Keyes and that man Scully. The Cats responded with efforts from Billy Drennan and Lisdowney’s Niall Brennan, before Laois keeper Rowland struck over another placed ball on 16 minutes to push the home sides lead back to three points.
Thomastown’s John Donnelly struck over a lovely point before Drennan added a free. PJ Scully then popped over another free as the home side punished any indiscretion from Kilkenny. Captain for the day, Walter Walsh then collected a puck-put before rifling over a cracking score to reduce the gap to just the bare minimum before Cian Kenny added to his tally with a fine point to level matters with about 20 minutes played.
Donnelly nudged the visitors in front on 21 minutes before the first green flag of the day was raised just a minute later. O’Loughlin Gaels Paddy Deegan sent in a searching delivery that Billy Drennan did well to collect before finishing smartly past Enda Rowland in the Laois goal. A good break out of defence saw another late inclusion, Mikey Butler fouled and that young man Drennan popped over the free to leave the Cats 5 ahead.
Laois’s man threat, PJ Scully then sent over a stunning sideline cut for a much-needed score for the home team, but Maher’s charges were finding it difficult to get much on the board from open play. Wing-back Jack Kelly sent in a long effort that Darren Brennan failed to hold, and the ever-alert Ross King finished to the net, much to delight of the large home crowd in Rathdowney. Centre-back Ross Mullaney then struck over a mighty score from way out the park to bring the sides level again.
Tullougher/Rosbercon’s Walter Walsh then notched his second point of the day before Martin Phelan replied for The O’Moore men with almost half an hour played. Walter then saw yellow following a heavy challenge. The sides then swapped scores in the blink of an eye, Paddy Deegan for the Cats and Aaron Dunphy for the home side.
Billy Drennan then got his second goal of the day when he batted home Niall Brennan’s lovely cut-back from along the end-line. Derek Lyng’s men wrapped up the first half scoring thanks to further points from David Blanchfield and Niall Brennan to leave the score board reading Laois 1-14, Kilkenny 2-16.
When the sides emerged from the half-time break, Kilkenny had replaced Dicksboro’s Bill Sheehan with U20 star Gearoid Dunne from Tullaroan.
Laois needed to start brightly after the interval, but a lackluster third quarter saw any hopes of a home win blown away. Three early second half Kilkenny points from Clara’s Paul Cody, Galmoy’s Drennan and The Sash’s Dunne put Lyng’s men firmly in control. Mullaney got the home side up and running with his second score of the day, but two quick-fire scores from Walter Walsh and Paul Cody dampened down the home crowd’s support.
Corner-forward PJ Scully popped over another free, but the Kilkenny response was emphatic. Paul Cody and substitute Alan Murphy registered scores before Walter added another. Glenmore’s Murphy fired over another point having replaced Cian Kenny and then the Cats manager had the luxury of withdrawing Billy Drennan and sending on another Glenmore man, Ian Byrne.
Any hopes of a Laois comeback were well and truly put to bed when in the 56th minute Kilkenny struck their 3rd major of the day. A Lovely long delivery from out on the touchline by Walter was superbly collected by Gearoid Dunne who beat his man before striking a lovely show across Enda Rowland and into the Laois net. The Cats added to their impressive tally with points from the impressive John Donnelly and Niall Brennan. Laois No.6 Mullaney hit his third point of the day, before a lapse in concentration in the visitors defence allowed Stephen Bergin to find the net.
In the closing stages of the game both sides shared 8 points as Byrne, Donnelly, Dunne and Alan Murphy rounded-off an impressive scoring return for the Noresiders as they took the victory on a scoreline of Laois 2-21, Kilkenny 3-31.
Scorers for Kilkenny: B Drennan (2-4, 0-4f), G Dunne (1-2), J Donnelly, P Cody, W Walsh (0-4 each), A Murphy (0-3, 0-1f), C Kenny, N Brennan (0-3 each), D Blanchfield (0-2), P Deegan, I Byrne (0-1 each).
Scorers for Laois: PJ Scully (0-8, 0-4f and one 65), R Mullaney (0-4), R King, S Bergin (1-0 each), E Rowland (0-3, 0-3f), J Keyes (0-3), M Phelan, A Dunphy, C Rigney (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: D Brennan; E Cody, P Walsh, M Butler; C Buckley, D Blanchfield, D Dunne; N Brennan, P Deegan; C Kenny, P Cody, W Walsh; B Drennan, J Donnelly, B Sheehan.
Subs: G Dunne for Sheehan (h-t), A Murphy for Kenny (46), T Phelan for Deegan (51), I Byrne for Drennan (55), N Rowe for Butler (58), N Mullins for Buckley (59), E Landy for Niall Brennan (65), D O’Neill for Des Dunne (65), S Staunton for Paul Cody (67), A Tallis for Darren Brennan (67).
Laois: E Rowland; P Delaney, L O’Connell, P Dunne; D Hartnett, R Mullaney, F C Fennell; J Keyes, R King; J Kelly, W Dunphy, J Walsh; A Dunphy, M Phelan, PJ Scully.
Subs: J Duggan for Fennell (32), L Senior for W Dunphy (45), S Bergin for Walsh (50), P Hyland for Phelan (58), C Rigney for King (63).
Referee: K Brady (Louth).
>> SHERRY SAYS…
Nothing breeds confidence like winning games, and that is what Kilkenny are doing under Derek Lyng. Following Laois’s opening round win in this competition, perhaps some supporters were expecting a tougher assignment, I for one was expecting a more physical encounter. This didn’t develop.
Willie Maher’s charges were competitive for some 35 minutes, but they fell away badly, a trait of previous manager Cheddar’s teams. I suppose its early doors, fitness still to be worked on.
Let’s take nothing away from Kilkenny, they were very good, ruthless when they needed to be and many of the performers on show in Rathdowney have given the management team plenty to think about. Billy Drennan was again outstanding, a constant menace and finished with 2-4. One of his U20 compatriots from last season, Gearoid Dunne was very impressive when introduced and notched 1-2, his goal was lovely.
Other stand-outs were Walter Walsh, Niall Brennan and Clara’s Paul Cody. Brenna & Cody are new to the panel this year, but have shown very encouraging signs.
I was impressed with the size of this Kilkenny team. They had a lot of big men in key areas.
So, avoid defeat tomorrow and it will be Lyng vs Shefflin in the Walsh Cup Final. Tasty early season treats.