BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
Opportunity knocks for ‘new look’ cats side
Sunday 16th January 2022, John Locke Park, Callan
Kilkenny senior hurlers got their season off to a winning start with a 6-point victory over Laois at John Locke Park, Callan last Sunday.
Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett will have been left scratching his head as his charges had controlled proceedings for long spells but were left to rue many missed chances at the long whistle.
In the first half alone, Laois registered eleven wides, but somehow still managed to reach the interval one point to the good.
Laois fielded a more experienced side, but they ran out of steam and ideas in the closing period of the game, and no doubt this will be of huge concern to ‘Cheddar’ ahead of their National League campaign which starts early next month with a clash against Tipperary.
The O’Moore county started brightly and raced into an early 3-point lead, thanks to points from the impressive Ross King (2) and Ben Conroy. The home side opened their account, thanks to a point from Tullaroan’s Shane Walsh. Then in the 12th minute, Walsh turned provider as he expertly blocked a pass from Laois defender Liam O’Connell. Windgap’s Emmet Landy raced onto the ball and dispatched his shot past opposition keeper Enda Rowland to the back of the net. Laois responded with points from King and John Lennon, to leave the sides tied at the first water break, 1-2 to 0-5.
The away side then hit 3 unanswered points when play resumed, the placed ball specialist King with two and an effort from wing-forward Seamus Fitzpatrick, that narrowly missed the net. Wing-back Podge Delaney then fired over a great score, while that man King, notch four further points before the short whistle. Brian Cody’s experimental side kept pace with the opposition, thanks to scores from Shane Walsh, Colm Prenderville, Niall Brennan, David Blanchfield and Glenmore’s Shane Murphy, to leave the home side trialing by the minimum, 1-9 to 0-13, when Offaly whistler Richie Fitzsimons blew for the interval.
The first few minutes of the second period were largely uneventful, before The Village’s Luke Scanlon fired over a lovely point. ‘Cheddars’ men were keeping the score board ticking over, with net minder Rowland landing two mighty long-range points from the placed ball, while Rathdowney-Errill’s Jack Kelly also registered two fine points.
The Noresiders challenge was being kept on track largely due to the expert free-taking of the Sash’s Shane Walsh who was in ‘TJ like’ mode all afternoon. Laois raised white flags with scores from Paddy Purcell and Stephen Bergin, but the black and amber men then found their groove.
Excellent points from distance from the eye-catching Landy (2) along with fine scores from Scanlon and O’Loughlin’s Conor Heary saw the home side take the lead for the first time at the second water break, 1-19 to 0-20. Half-time substitutes, Stephen Donnelly and Robbie Buckley were causing havoc in the Laois defence and both pointed to extend the home side’s lead.
The O’Moore County men tried in vain to keep tabs with the Leinster champions, but couldn’t muster up a goal opportunity, thanks to vigilant defending and good net minding by Lisdowney’s Liam Dunphy. Further frees from the accurate Walsh and the impressive Robbie Buckley saw the home side 6 points up at the long whistle, 1-27 to 0-24.
Kilkenny Scorers: S Walsh (0-9, 0-6f, 0-1 65), E Landy (1-2), R Buckley (0-3), C Prenderville (0-3), S Donnelly (0-2), S Murphy (0-2), L Scanlon (0-2), S Morrissey (0-1), D Blanchfield (0-1), C Heary (0-1), N Brennan (0-1).
Laois Scorers: R King (0-13, 0-11f), J Kelly (0-3), E Rowland (0-2, 0-2f) S Bergin (0-2), P Purcell (0-1), J Lennon (0-1), B Conroy (0-1), P Delaney (0-1).
KILKENNY: L Dunphy; M Butler, J Burke, N MacMahon; D Blanchfield, C Heary, S Murphy; N Brennan, T Dunne; C Prenderville, E Landy, L Scanlon; C Bolger, S Walsh, S Morrissey.
Subs: D O’Keeffe for MacMahon (h-t), R Buckley for Brennan (h-t), S Donnelly for Bolger (h-t), A Brennan for Dunne (h-t), E O’Shea for Landy (56), C Wallace for Heary (65).
LAOIS: E Rowland; D Conway, S Downey, D Hartnett; P Delaney, L O’Connell, R Mullaney; F Fennell, J Kelly; P Purcell, B Conroy, S Fitzpatrick; J Lennon, M Dowling, R King.
Subs: S Bergin for Lennon (h-t), F Flanagan for Conway (h-t), W Dunphy for Dowling (50), S Maher for Broderick (50), P Dunne for Hartnett (60), A Corby for Fennell (60).
Referee: Richie Fitzsimons (Offaly)
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
A 24th campaign for Mr. Brian Cody. A Walsh Cup fixture in mid-January. A host of new names in the black & amber. A win. That’s about all you could ask for, given the limited time the James Stephen’s clubman has had to prepare for the pre-season competition.
Taking on a much-more experienced O’Moore County side, the players selected did themselves and their clubs, no harm at all. Shane Walsh picked up where he left off with the Sash. Give him a chance and he will almost certainly punish the opposition from the placed ball.
Walsh was ably supported in attack by Windgap’s Emmet Landy, who had a great game, finishing the day with 1-2 to his name. Graigue/Ballycallan’s Colm Prenderville made his mark too, notching 3 points. The introduction of Thomastown’s Stephen Donnelly and O’Loughlin’s Robbie Buckley added an extra level of menace.
In defence, the entire half-back line raised flags. Glenmore’s Shane Murphy notched a brace, while Bennettsbridge’s David Blanchfield and O’Loughlin’s Conor Heary all got in on the act.
Next up for the cats is a visit to neighbours Wexford tomorrow. No doubt we may see another experimental line-up. I’d definitely like to see Robbie Buckley get another un-out.
It’s a big year for the County side. Winning is a good habit to get into, whatever XV are on the pitch.