It’s because Brian Cody is still the boss, and as long as his substantial presence continues to loom large over this team there will be no let-up and no complacency.
Last year Kilkenny won everything that was going — Walsh Cup, National League, All-Ireland championship to go through the season undefeated. The reward was a two-week team holiday to New Zealand from which they have only just returned. It would be absolutely understandable, then, had they approached this game with something less than total commitment. Walsh Cup, first outing of the year, up against a UCD team short several first-choice players including Tipp county stars Paul Ormonde and
Not a chance though, not while Cody was on the line.
On a fine afternoon for hurling, right from the first whistle it was Kilkenny in control. UCD did open the scoring, a magnificent sideline cut in the first minute from all of 60m on the left by midfielder Bryan Barry (a Kilkennyman, incidentally), but thereafter it was the Cats who dominated with a succession of superb scores. They scored 3-10 in a totally dominant first-half display, all from play, to just five points for the students (Eoin Larkin blasted two of the goals and corner-forward McCormack got the third, as five of the six forwards getting in on the scoring act).
Several Kilkenny players have wintered well, a few excess pounds obvious here and there, but equally evident was their continuing hunger.
Seven of last September’s starting 15 started again yesterday — Jackie Tyrell, Noel Hickey, James Ryall, Tommy Walsh, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin and Aidan Fogarty were all to the fore, fighting as if their places depended on this one game. And perhaps they do. Even coming off previous all-conquering seasons, Cody has never been slow to introduce new blood where no-one else saw any such need.
One of those newcomers who may yet make an impact this year was full-forward Michael Murphy. The 26-year-old from Mullinavat is strong, pacy, and has a good eye for a score; most impressive, however, he has an eye for the support player. Much of what he tried yesterday didn’t come off, but he finished with two good points, had a hand in several more. Early days yet, but Murphy is precisely the kind of hidden jewel you almost expect Brian Cody to unearth at this stage.
The second half was non-eventful, UCD outscoring the Cats 0-9 to 0-8 mainly through placed balls from Wexford midfielder Stephen Nolan, but at that stage it was done and dusted.
“It was a lovely day for it, good to get a first game into us. We’d be happy, got some good scores, some nice hurling, and the attitude was very, very good as well,” said Cody afterwards.
The forwards, 3-10 from play in 35 minutes? “That’s good going, they combined well, created some good opportunities.” And the backs, 0-3 conceded to the UCD forwards from play in the whole 70? “They must have conceded ten or twelve from frees, so!” he grinned.
“Ah, I’d be very happy with today; UCD obviously have a lot of heavy training behind them, they’d be in Fitzgibbon mode at the moment, we’re just back from holidays. We’re a bit behind where we should be at the moment physically, a few weeks will bring that on a lot. Walsh Cup again next week, against Offaly, that’s good. Good start. The league will be starting in three weeks or so, we’d be hoping to have most of the lads back for that, but the (Ballyhale) Shamrocks’ players will only come back after they are out of the club championship, which hopefully will be after March 17th (they play Toomevara on Saturday week in the All-Ireland semi-final).”
Scorers for Kilkenny: E. Larkin 2-1; R. Power 0-6 (0-2 frees); A. Fogarty 0-4; E. McCormack 1-1; M. Murphy 0-2; W. O’Dwyer, J. Ryall, S. O’Neill, M. Comerford, 0-1 each.
Scorers for UCD: S. Nolan 0-8 (0-5 frees); B. Barry 0-2 (sideline, free); J. McCarthy, PJ Nolan, R. O’Carroll, C. Billings, 0-1 each.
KILKENNY: PJ Ryan; J. Tyrrell, B. Hogan, N. Hickey; J. Ryall, J. Dalton, T. Walsh; P. Cleere, M. Rice; R. Power, W. O’Dwyer, E. Larkin; E. McCormack, M. Murphy, A. Fogarty.
Subs: D. Lyng (Cleere 35); R. Mullally (Hickey 35); S. O’Neill (Fogarty 35); M. Comerford (McCormack 49); A. Murphy (Rice 58).
UCD: D. Fogarty (Kilkenny); S. O’Mahony (Kilkenny), S. Cummins (Kilkenny), B. Buckley (Offaly); C. Billings (Dublin), T. Brady (Dublin), D. Prendergast (Kilkenny); B. Barry (Kilkenny), S. Nolan (Wexford); R. O’Carroll (Dublin), D. Hayes (Galway), B. Murphy (Offaly); PJ Nolan (Wexford), J. McCarthy (Limerick), K. Burke (Wexford).
Subs: K. Breen (Cummins inj. 24); E. Quigley (Barry inj. 35); T. O’Connor (K. Burke inj. 58); W. Whelan (O’Carroll 68).
Referee: J. Owens (Wexford).