Groundhog day is upon us once more. For those of us looking from the outside in, anyway, writes Peter McNamara .
Kilkenny. A Leinster final. Croke Park. Ring any bells?
Brian Cody’s charges, as they tend to revel in doing so, swatted aside a Dublin outfit with ambitions.
And were Ger Cunningham’s Metropolitans to shine at all under the lights at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night that form will receive a boost, as if Kilkenny’s position as favourites needed to be justified whatsoever.
Let’s get back to the idea of opponents that have ambitions of displacing the Cats from their provincial and national thrones, though.
Bottom line: Not on Cody’s watch, generally.
Teams with notions about themselves get hammered back into their box as soon as they peep out of it.
Proper order too according to the rules and regulations of Codyland. Us mere mortals just have to applaud.
Too many people these days are conscious of sides on the cusp of a major breakthrough getting torched by superior opponents.
Tough. If you can’t stand the heat... That, or learn to survive in the cauldron.
Galway will be the latest team to experience the pressure-cooker environment of encountering Kilkenny in contests that matter.
The westerners have been here many times before, too. Yet, Kilkenny are a monkey they may never truly get off their backs, no matter who is in charge of them.
The likes of Tipperary can empathise.
Last season it was Ger Aylward. This term it could be Jonjo Farrell acting as the catalyst attacker that reinvigorates those more experienced around him, a theory certainly based on the class he operated with in Kilkenny’s previous outing anyway.
Graphic speaks for itself https://t.co/CVWnNDax7o— Peter McNamara (@PeterMcNamara_) June 30, 2016
Though, as we all know one swallow never made a summer so it will be intriguing to note if he can back up that outstanding display against the Boys in Blue. And we suspect he will, for the record.
Nevertheless, when it comes to matches where sheer graft is the staple ingredient for success it more often than not suits the likes of Michael Fennelly and Eoin Larkin to steer the ship into whatever rocky waters are before them.
They thrive on it actually as was illustrated again after the interval in the All-Ireland SHC final of 2015.
Dyed-in-the-wool and astute Kilkenny supporter Tom Partridge, of The Rower-Inistioge persuasion suggested this week Fennelly’s presence and power could be essential to derailing Galway once more.
A logical assessment too as the Tribesmen could try and create traffic jams in the middle-third so as to minimise the number of opportunities for incisive possessions to be arrowed towards Farrell et al.
And the Ballyhale Shamrocks’ man has that canny knack of emerging from crowded areas of the field with the sliothar in-hand ready to locate a forward on his radar.
That particular skill of his was arguably the single-most important facet of Kilkenny’s outrageous second-half performance last September.
Fennelly was tone-setting in adversity and it swung the tide in the Cats’ favour tellingly.
More warrior-like input should come from Walter Walsh.
The Tullogher-Rosbercon man is made of granite and could dismantle Galway’s full-back line if detailed to roam on the edge of the square.
Equally, his supplementary presence off the wing in the middle-third sector provides Kilkenny with a towering craftsman in a vital area.
Walsh, actually, has been exemplary so far this year and could be the defining component of their season if Kilkenny are to retain the All-Ireland title.
What of Galway?
Oh to have been a fly on the wall of their dressing room at half-time of the All-Ireland final last year. I bet the flies that were there could whisper some illuminating tales.
Galway’s motherboard short-circuited in the second half of that particular joust with Kilkenny, obviously.
However, the very best of technical analysts will do well to ever figure out why the Tribesmen went from being first-half superheroes to second half also-rans.
We can only speculate, of course, but it would be difficult to argue with anybody that just happened to suggest there was verbal in-fighting on the western front. And then some.
Damien Hayes, too, firmly indicated earlier that an incident of some sort had occurred but stopped short of directly outlining exactly what that was on the day.
Sunday’s return to headquarters represents Galway’s first opportunity to atone for the insipid nature of their second-half performance on that ill-fated afternoon.
And their supporters deserve to witness a display of substance, if nothing else, for the 70-plus minutes of fare on Jones’ Road.
Will they get said display of substance? Probably. Will it be sufficient to ensure Micheál Donoghue lands his first trophy as manager of the side?
After all, Galway are Galway. And I won’t insult the intelligence of readers by explaining in detail what is meant by that.
Suffice to say consistency has never been their closest friend.
Evidence to the contrary hasn’t exactly been in plentiful supply in 2016, either.
Yet, the fires in the west are always stoked by the black and amber.
Furthermore, the Tribesmen were boosted by the news Conor Cooney is available to play as the red card he received against Offaly in the provincial semi-final was downgraded to a yellow.
Cooney hit 1-3 and hurt Offaly. Thing is, does anybody honestly believe Cody won’t have provisions in place to contain him?
Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion both failed to score in that match while Joe Canning contributed 0-1 in open play. Those attackers will need to register in the region of 0-6 accumulatively in that regard if Kilkenny are to be under the cosh at all in Croker.
And that six-point estimation is probably being extremely conservative.
In fact, aside from Cooney’s 1-3 the other five starting offensive players totalled 1-4 in open play in Portlaoise.
With the greatest of respect to Offaly, that simply won’t be good enough in this forthcoming outing.
Then again, psychologically, how motivated were Donoghue’s men to really annihilate the Faithful County for the umpteenth time in recent years? As it was Galway won by a credible 10 points, 2-19 to 2-9.
In fairness to Shane Dooley and co too, they have shown snippets of improvement this season as well.
Regardless, as patrons stream away from Croker on Sunday it is highly likely the performances of Mick Fennelly and Wally Walsh will be the hot topics of discussion as Kilkenny rejoice yet again.
The Cats. A provincial title. All-Ireland semi-finalists via the front-door.
How’s about them bells?