What odds would you have got on Kilkenny being the only team in Division 1A without a point after two rounds?
However, with three games still to play, three teams from six to qualify for the semi-finals, you still wouldn’t be ruling them out of contention in the race for silverware.
The biggest thing that struck me about this game — and it was of a very high quality, considering the conditions and the time of year — were the rules. Why were two players sent off yesterday? That is the ultimate sanction against a player, yet this wasn’t even remotely a dirty game.
Common sense isn’t being applied. Referees are under pressure to be overly technical when they should be going with their gut feeling. I guarantee you, if it had been left up to Wadding, neither Tommy Walsh nor Noel McGrath would have walked.
To the game, and I’m wondering, are Kilkenny losing something of what made them great, their defence? They’re conceding goals a lot easier now than ever before and Lar Corbett’s effort was a perfect example of that.
Credit to Corbett he took it well, threw himself in where it was going to hurt but that’s the point — he wasn’t hurt, he didn’t pay any kind of price with two defenders and the goalie all hesitating.
When Lar Corbett is around — and surely Kilkenny should know this — you don’t hesitate. At the heart of those problems for Kilkenny has to be the fitness and form of Brian Hogan who looks as if he may be carrying an injury. Whatever the reason, he didn’t look like himself, and this was where Kilkenny’s defensive problems started. Kieran Joyce was an improvement when introduced but in normal circumstances you wouldn’t be saying that about Kilkenny after Brian Hogan had gone off.
Apart from that Brian Cody can feel happy enough, especially with some of his less familiar faces. Lester Ryan was again in good form in midfield while Paddy Hogan and Conor Fogarty also did well.
Centre back woes weren’t confined to Kilkenny as Conor O’Mahony was also in trouble for Tipperary with Padraic Maher tightening things up when he took charge.
From the Tipperary viewpoint, while they can be happy to have got the win, they should be disappointed that they failed to drive on from being seven points up. At the end they were left hanging on, which suggests they are still lacking the ruthlessness required of champions.
I was very impressed with Michael Cahill who was outstanding at corner-back. Most pleasing for Tipperary though, Brendan Maher looked back to his best, in the middle of the field. If Brendan Maher can maintain that, even build on it, Tipperary will also be heading in the right direction. Likewise the leadership of Eoin Kelly up front — these are the guys Tipperary need to be playing well if they’re to get back to where they were in 2010.
Of course Eamon O’Shea will know too that even as Kilkenny have work to do to get back into this league, Tipperary aren’t the finished article by any means.
A nod to those who turned up yesterday — in freezing conditions, a decent crowd and they got plenty to shout about. I met John Mackey and Jim Freeman who do fantastic work for the Kilkenny Supporters’ Club and they were telling me they’re having a fundraiser in Gowran Park on March 23. I wish them the best of luck with that.
What a finish we now have in store in the league, no team on full points after Cork and Waterford drew yesterday, Clare and Tipp off the mark. It’s all still to play for.
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