BY NIALL SHERRY
Post-Cody era starts with Walsh Cup win over Offaly
John Locke Park, Callan
Kilkenny 2-19 Offaly 0-21
Kilkenny hurlers recorded their first win under new bainisteoir Derek Lyng as they defeated a gallant Offaly side by 4-points in Callan last weekend.
Emeralds club man Lyng’s first senior selection saw an experimental blend of youth and experience take to the pitch at John Locke Park and get the Walsh Cup campaign off to a winning start. In total six players earned their first stripes in the senior panel and gave the manager plenty to think about. Dicksboro’s Cillian Buckley was selected as captain and his experience was vital on the pitch.
An absolutely first class free-taking performance from U20 All-Ireland winner Billy Drennan was key to helping secure a maiden victory for the ‘post-Cody’ side. The Galmoy man was in top form and made the most of his first opportunity in the senior ranks.
Goals win games, and the Cats two majors from Glenmore’s Ian Byrne and Conahy Shamrocks Tom Phelan went a long way to securing maximum points.
Galmoy’s Billy Drennan started the game brightly and registered the first two Kilkenny scores of the day from the placed ball. Indeed, the opening five scores of the game all came from frees with the home side taking a one-point lead on 8 minutes after Thomastown’s John Donnelly popped over a free.
The first score from open play came from wing-back Conor Heary and this was followed by two on the bounce from danger-man Drennan as the Cats led by 4-points with eleven on the clock. A nice point from play by Offaly’s Cillian Kiely followed, but then the home side registered the first of their two majors on the day. Another of the U20 squad from last season, Ian Byrne saw his shot escape the clutches of Offaly keeper, Shinrone’s Eamonn Cleary and drop into the net. Small margins, big gains.
Two more points from play by Kilkenny, courtesy of Drennan and late inclusion Bill Sheehan saw the Noresiders move into what appeared to be a commanding 8-point lead, but to their credit Offaly rallied and got themselves back into the contest thanks to points from Kiely and Belmont’s David Nally (2) which temporarily reduced the deficit to five points.
Lisdowney’s Niall Brennan replaced midfielder Peter McDonald before further points from John Donnelly and Sheehan pushed the Kilkenny lead out to seven with some 27 minutes played. Just minutes later with half an hour played a second change by the home side saw Tom Phelan replace Emmet Landy in the forward line.
The visitors outscored the cats four points to one in the remaining minutes of the opening period as the teams reached the interval on a score line of Kilkenny 1-11, Offaly 0-10.
When play resumed, The Faithful County hit the opening 3-points of the second period, all via the accurate free-taking of Kilcormac/Killoughey’s Cillian Kiely as he moved to 0-10 for the day. The Offaly comeback was briefly halted when first-half sub Niall Brennan struck over a fine point to get the home side going in the second half.
Johnny Kelly’s side drew level by the 44th minute, that man Kiely with another quality placed ball, and an exquisite score from Ross Ravenhill. Billy Drennan then sent over a brace of frees, much to the delight of the home support to give his side a 2-point lead. Manager Lyng then made a quadruple change with Alan Murphy, Timmy Clifford, Mikey Butler and Padraig Walsh replacing Ian Byrne, David Blanchfield, Niall Mullins and Des Dunne respectively.
Offaly brought the game back to a 1-point score, thanks to a good score from Charlie Mitchell as U20 All-Ireland winning captain Padraic Moylan entered the fray with some 18 minutes played in the second half. The next four points were shared as subs Alan Murphy and Timmy Clifford go on the score board for the hosts while Kiely and Brian Duignan replied for the visitors.
The second green flag of the day was then raised with 22 minutes gone in the second period. O’Loughlin’s Paddy Deegan sent in a fine floated pass which Conahy’s Tom Phelan collected before dispatching a hard low shot across the keeper to the net. Again, Offaly showed fight and struck over a few more scores, which will have pleased their manager and supporters.
Fittingly, Billy Drennan sent over the last couple of scores for Derek Lyng’s side as he capped a memorable debut on home soil. When the long whistle sounded, the score board in John Locke Park read, Kilkenny 2-19, Offaly 0-21.
Scorers for Kilkenny: B Drennan (0-9, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65); I Byrne, T Phelan (1-0 each); J Donnelly, B Sheehan, N Brennan (0-2 each); C Heary, P Moylan, A Murphy, T Clifford (0-1 each).
Scorers for Offaly: C Kiely (0-13, 0-11 frees); D Nally (0-4, 0-2 frees); J Murphy, R Ravenhill, C Mitchell, B Duignan (0-1 each).
KILKENNY: D Brennan; N Rowe, H Lawlor, N Mullins; C Heary, C Buckley, D Dunne; D Blanchfield, P McDonald; E Landy, J Donnelly, P Deegan; I Byrne, B Drennan, B Sheehan. Subs: P Moylan, P Walsh, E Cody, N Brennan, A Murphy, M Butler, T Clifford.
OFFALY: E Cleary; P Cantwell, C Burke, J Nally; D King, J Sampson, K Sampson; R Ravenhill, P Delaney; D Nally, C Kelly; J Screeney; B Duignan, P Clancy, J Murphy. Subs: S Corcoran, O Kelly, D Maher, S Dooley, A Cleary, J Clancy, J Keenaghan.
Referee: C Daly (Kildare).
>> SHERRY SAYS…
And we’re off….! The Derek Lyng era started with exactly the result that we all wanted. Offaly proved game challengers and you could certainly see the progression made under the stewardship of Ballyhale man Michael Fennelly who passed the reigns to Johnny Kelly at the end of last season.
It was great to see some of the U20 All-Ireland winning panel in senior action last week. Billy Drennan has excelled at all levels of hurling (and handball!) to date, and the step-up to senior action didn’t appear to faze the Galmoy man. Drennan looked every inch a Kilkenny player in Callan. He was brilliant from the placed-ball and had a lively opening period overall. We’ll definitely see more of Billy as the season progresses.
Getting ten players on the score sheet will also have been very encouraging for the new manager and getting to cast his eye of his first senior panel in competitive action will no doubt have given him much food for thought.
I thought Tom Phelan took his goal really well, he did exactly the same last season in this competition!
The manager alluded to players tiring a little during the game and perhaps a little inconsistancy during the win over Offaly, but as he mentioned, it’s all about building a competitive panel for the National League campaign.
Looking to Laois…..
This weekend we have a little road trip to Rathdowney to face Willie Maher’s Laois. The former Bennettsbridge manager also got off to a winning start when the O’Moore County surprisingly got the better of Darragh Eagan’s Wexford.
Tomas ‘Mossy’ Keyes will take a bit of watching next week. Along with Jordan Walshe and lively newcomer James Duggan, Willie appears to have re-energized the County following his appointment. Maher has also encouraged some hurlers to return to the county scene, while he still has the likes of Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher to come back in. experienced heads PJ Scully & Ross King started on the bench last week, and both could play a more prominent role this weekend.
This fixture could possibly be a little more physical than the opening round game with Offaly, and the Kilkenny management will no doubt have this in mind when selecting their starting XV.
It is certainly exciting times on Noreside. Like the air, things feel fresh. Let’s build on the win over Offaly and set-up a mouth-watering clash