Clubs ready to battle for county glory
BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
St. Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League-Championship 2023
Just as the dust begins to settle on another inter-county season, the business end of the club scene is upon us. We can forget about Limerick and the chase for Liam over the next four or five months and concentrate on where it’s really at – the club.
While there appears to be no stopping JP McManus and his Treaty juggernaut, the puzzle to solve for our senior club sides is equally as difficult; ‘how do we stop the machine that is Shamrocks Ballyhale’?
This weekend sees the start of the Kilkenny club championships and Gaels will flock to grounds all round the county to support their sides at all levels, hoping that this might be the year that their men get to lift silverware.
At senior level, it’s all about Shamrocks Ballyhale. Having claimed a 12th All-Ireland club title in January this year with victory over Antrim’s Dunloy, this ‘club of clubs’ knows that they are there to be ‘shot at’ and other teams will fancy their chances of preventing the South Kilkenny side making it six county titles on the bounce.
Last season, Pat Hoban’s men claimed their 5th successive title when they defeated a spirited James Stephens side in the final by 7 points. Ronan Corcoran hoisted the Tom Walsh Cup aloft, and they then went on their Leinster journey. Shamrocks county contingent will look to shake off the disappointment of the Limerick defeat by getting stuck back in with the club. The chasing pack will be acutely aware that they need to step up and battle for the right to be crowned the county’s best club in 2023.
Group A – Round 1 Fixtures
Bennettsbridge vs Erins Own
Tonight, Pairc Lachtain, 7pm,
Referee: Owen Beehan
James Stephens vs Graigue Ballycallan
Tonight, Danesfort, 7pm,
Referee: John Kennedy
Shamrocks Ballyhale vs Glenmore
Saturday, Thomastown, 2pm,
Referee: Peter Burke
The first two games of this year’s senior championship take place tonight, with Bennettsbridge taking on Erins own and The Village facing Graigue Ballycallan. Both games throw-in at 7pm, so you have time for a quick bite before getting out to support your team!
The Bridge’s encounter with the Castlecomer men should be an interesting affair. David Blanchfield’s fitness will be key to his side’s run in this year’s Tom Walsh Cup. Along with the Blanchfield’s they will look to Sean Morrissey to provide the attacking threat to keep the scoreboard moving. Should Conor’s Fogarty and Delaney line out, they will add grit and experience to their Erins Own side.
Last season’s beaten finalists, James Stephens will lock horns with Graigue Ballycallan in Danesfort, and Brian Cody’s city side will look to get their campaign off to a flyer. They gave a decent account of themselves against Shamrocks in the 2022 decider and will be keen to make the showpiece event this season. County man Cian Kenny will again be influential for The Village in this year’s championship, but he’s in good company with the likes of the experienced Conor Browne, Niall Brassil and Luke Scanlon driving the Kells Road outfit on. Graigue Ballycallan will have their work cut out for them against Cody’s Village outfit tonight. A lot will rest on how Billy Ryan can inspire his teammates to cause an upset.
Tomorrow sees the first outing for Shamrocks Ballyhale, and they face an interesting clash with Glenmore. I’d imagine we might not see the full trio of TJ Reid, Adrian Mullen and Eoin Cody this weekend, but the likes of Niall Shortall, Joe Cuddihy, Eoin Kenneally and Ronan Corcoran will look to set the tone for the South Kilkenny clubs championship campaign. Netminder Dean Mason will look to stand firm and build on a growing reputation that will undoubtably lead to senior county appearances in the next couple of seasons.
Glenmore are a side that won’t fear taking on their more illustrious opponents, whatever the venue. The Páirc na Ratha club have the likes of Eoin & Alan Muphy, Ger Aylward, Liam Hennessey and Sean Duggan. When the sides met last season, Glenmore didn’t quite stay the course in that game, going down by some 15-points.
Group B – Round 1 Fixtures
Danesfort vs Mullinavat
Saturday, Dunnamaggin, 12:30,
Referee: Conor Everard
Tullaroan vs O’Loughlin Gaels
Saturday, Clara, 3pm,
Referee: Raymond Byrne
Dicksboro vs Clara
Saturday, Pairc Sheamuis Stiophan, 4pm,
Referee: Gavin Quilty
Group B gets underway tomorrow with the meeting of Danesfort and Mullinavat. This could prove a tricky fixture for the ‘Fort. The more youthful contingent of Des Dunne, Ben Whitty and Jack Bruton will look to provide the springboard for the black and amber side against the Vegas Boys, who like to cause the odd upset now and again.
The Sash will face-off against O’Loughlin Gaels at 3pm in Clara tomorrow. How many of the county men will be in action, remains to be seen, but there will be plenty of quality on display at the Carlow Road venue. The trio of Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor and Paddy Deegan have quality in abundance. The city side have the likes of Jordan Molloy, Jack Nolan and Conor Heary to call on, while Eoin Wall will look to use his pace to trouble the Tullaroan defence.
The Walsh’s may feature prominently for The Sash, with Padraig, Tommy, Shane all capable of big performances, while Mossy Keoghan will look to raise plenty of green flags in the club jersey. Gearoid Dunne is another dangerman and will look to continue his impressive form from last season, that earned him a place in Derek Lyng’s panel.
The last game in Group B sees Dicksboro in action against Clara at Pairc Sheamuis Stiophan. The Palmerstown side will look to get their campaign off to a winning start with victory over the Carlow Road side and should have enough quality to do that. Following a season with the county, Timmy Clifford will hope to kick-on again and to cement a place in Derek Lyng’s squad for 2024. Cillian Buckley is likely to come into the club fold in the latter rounds, but the maroon-clad men have the likes of Padraic Moylan, Liam Moore, Harry Shine; Cillian Hackett and Niall Rowe to call on. There’s been a lot of juvenile success for ‘Boro and this is proving fruitful to the senior ranks.
Clara will hope that Jason Byrne, Chris Bolger and Liam Ryan are ready to strike and trouble the ‘Boro defence. At the back, net minder Kevin Nolan will look to Bill Carrigan and David Langton in front of him to try and keep the leash on the Palmerstown men’s attacking unit.
> SHERRY SAYS…
It starts with the club and finishes with the club. That is the truth of our Gaelic Games. Club Championship hurling gets the juices flowing, especially in Kilkenny. Our clubs have a decent record when progressing to the provincial and national stages, but first is the small matter of the county championships.
The battle for the Tom Walsh Cup starts tonight. Can anyone stop Shamrocks quest for six titles on the trot? Last season’s second best team, James Stephens will no doubt fancy another crack this year and with a certain Mr. Brian Cody pulling the strings on the sideline, The Village will be a dangerous animal.
O’Loughlin Gaels have plenty of quality about their panel, as has Dicksboro. The ‘Boro’s underage success is paying dividends with the likes of Harry Shine, Niall Rowe, Padraic Moylan to name but three, all classy, exciting hurlers.
At Senior level, Shamrocks Ballyhale are the team to beat, and they will take on all comers. Thomastown will hope to get back to the top table after a couple of near misses in the Intermediate championship. Emeralds and Tullogher Rosbercon will hope to thrive at Junior level, but that’s a tricky playground.
Derek Lyng and his backroom team will take in plenty of games over the next couple of months, hoping to uncover another few gems. Hurlers up and down the county will use the championship to show what they can do, hoping that their club can claim the ultimate prize in the county.
The Kilkenny Observer will be keeping a close eye on club matters over the next few months, Junior, intermediate and Senior. Let the games begin.