Cody defends Leinster hurling

With the Bob O'Keeffe Cup resting in Kilkenny hands for the 12th time in 13 years, there is no denying that the Cats are a cut above the rest in the eastern province.

They won yesterday's Leinster SHC final pulling up, comfortably seeing off the challenge of Galway on a 1-19 to 1-12 scoreline at Croke Park.

The one-sided nature of the contest, allied to Wexford's poor display in last Saturday's qualifier against Tipperary, has reopened the debate about the standard of hurling in Leinster.

Kilkenny have not lost a Leinster Championship match since 2004, winning a record six provincial titles on the trot. But their manager Brian Cody feels that competition within the 12 counties remains at a high level.

"It was always going to be a huge challenge. They talked about the Leinster Championship for years being easy which it never was. It is massively competitive," he said.

"We see what Offaly did (in their two games against Galway), and how Carlow played against Antrim (in the qualifiers). Outstanding.

"There has been a terrific drive in Leinster hurling. Wexford were disappointing against Tipperary but Offaly's two games against Galway were excellent and again (yesterday).

"The Leinster title is a tough thing to win. We are thrilled we won it because it gets you into an All-Ireland semi-final and that is a huge prize."

Certainly, the addition of Antrim and Galway to the Leinster Championship last year has benefited the competition, allied to the return of an improving Carlow side.

Offaly, under Joe Dooley, have shown signs of a resurgence and should account for Limerick in next weekend's qualifiers. Dublin will need a big performance to rescue their season against Clare next Saturday, but Leinster final appearances for their minors and Under-21s confirms the continuing development of the small ball code in the capital.

Wexford's surrender to Tipp was most alarming, especially when you consider that the Model men contested four Leinster finals between 2005 and 2008. Last year was similarly disappointing with a Leinster semi-final defeat to Dublin followed by an All-Ireland qualifier loss to Limerick.

Their winning of the NHL Division 2 title this year showed promise, but it remains to be seen if manager Colm Bonnar will stay in charge.

"My two-year term is up now, so we'll have to sit down with the County Board now and chat about what's next," said Bonnar, in the aftermath of the Thurles defeat.

"Those decisions are for another day. We were very unlucky with the draw, getting two teams (Galway and Tipperary) who are in contention for knocking Kilkenny off their stride."

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