By Niall Sherry, Sports editor
Galway test next for Lyng’s men
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
UPMC Nowlan Park,
Kilkenny vs Galway
Galway are the next visitors to UPMC Nowlan Park this weekend, and a much tougher challenge can be guaranteed when Henry brings his charges to face-off against the Cats on Sunday. The opening round win over Westmeath won’t have given Derek Lyng any great insight as this weekend’s opponents promise a much higher level of skill and physicality.
While Kilkenny dispatched the Lake County with little difficulty last weekend, Galway also took maximum points from their first-round encounter with Wexford, despite conceding two early goals, they ran out 6-point winners in Salthill.
Kilkenny’s defence wasn’t really tested to any great degree in the win over Joe Fortune’s men, but they’ll need to be on their toes this Sunday, as Galway possess a couple of useful weapons in attacking areas. Their win in Salthill was relatively comfortable in the end, the star of the show was Evan Niland who finished the game with an impressive 0-13, seven of which came from play. The Clarinbridge clubman will take a wee bit of watching in Nowlan Park.
Killimordaly’s Brian Concannon is normally the focal point at the edge of the square, and will no doubt relish his potential battle with O’Loughlin’s Huw Lawlor. Derek Lyng will no doubt hope that the service into the Galway full-forward line is restricted, but the Kilkenny faithful will be happy to see Lawlor guarding the square. Five out of their starting six forwards got on the score sheet against the Yellowbellies, and it’s a fluid unit that can swap positions as games develop.
Captained from centre-back by Daithí Burke, the Tribesmen have a strong and potent half-back line that will look to dictate matters and set the tempo for those further up the pitch. Last week Burke had Padraic Mannion and Joseph Cooney flanking him. This line in the Galway team is a lovely blend of strength and skill.
Standing between the sticks will be Eanna Murphy. The Tommy Larkins player has been a permanent fixture for the Westerners over the last few seasons and is one of the best keepers around. Murphy was at his best in the win over Wexford and made a vital penalty save from Conor McDonald when the game was in the melting pot.
Henry Shefflin’s men had a mixed Allianz league campaign, winning 3 games and losing two. Wins over Wexford, Clare and Westmeath were balanced by defeats to both Cork and Limerick. Like their provincial opener, Evan Niland was key to most of their scoring totals. St Thomas’s Conor Cooney was also prominent in scoring and creating for the men in maroon. Tom Monaghan is a player who has performed well against Kilkenny in recent seasons, and he will definitely feature on Sunday.
As mentioned, Derek Lyng won’t have learned too much from their easy win over Westmeath. His team lined out without the services of injured due Billy Drennan and Paddy Deegan. Both these players had excellent league campaigns and we hope to see them back in the stripes before the end of the round-robin stage of the provincial competition.
Speaking after the Westmeath game, the Emerald’s clubman referred to both the aforementioned missing players. “The only thing is that they’re not long term, which is the only ‘positive’ if you like. But they’ll miss the next two or three rounds, and hopefully they’ll be back then.”
With Drennan absent, the returning TJ Reid resumed free-taking duty and finished the day with 0-9. Two players who stood out with excellent shooting performances were Thomastown’s John Donnelly and Shamrocks Adrian Mullen. The latter notched 0-6 with a couple of classy scores amongst his total, while the hard-working Donnelly hit 0-4.
While it’s still early in the championship, the back six is beginning to look like one which could establish itself in the black and amber. With Mikey Butler and Tommy Walsh flanking Huw Lawlor in the last line and David Blanchfield and Padraig Walsh keeping Richie Reid company in the half-back division, it would be nice to see these players get a good run of games together. One thing is certain, goalkeeper Eoin Murphy will benefit from a settled six in front of him.
The engine room will be of huge importance as usual. Derek Lyng may shuffle his pack again in the area, with Conor Fogarty possibly coming into the mix here.
This game to me marks the real start of championship action. Henry will be out to rain on Derek Lyng’s parade and this one could be a cracking encounter.
>> SHERRY SAYS…
So, Leinster is up and running. A routine win over Westmeath will now be followed by an altogether different and more difficult task – Henry’s Galway. There will certainly be a bigger crowd in attendance at UPMC Nowlan Park for the visit of the Tribesmen.
If last year’s clashes are anything to go by, there should be an edge to this one. Eoin Cody and his team will need to stand up to the physical challenge that Galway will bring. Win this and you can then play your hurling.
Billy Drennan’s untimely injury could see further minutes for TJ Reid. TJ shook the rust off last week and more minutes might be useful for the legend. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Adrian Mullen following his 0-6 against Westmeath. Also, Thomastown’s John Donnelly in continuing his good recent form also.
Evan Niland is definitely one to watch in the visitors’ line-up. His seven points from play against Wexford were of the highest caliber.
Both teams opening round wins sets this up nicely and topping the table may rest on this result.
• Congratulations to our U20 hurlers who secured their place in the Leinster Hurling Championship semi-final with a hard-fought 2-point win over a very good Dublin side. Tullaroan’s Gearoid Dunne scored top for the Cats with 0-6.