And that’s exactly how it turned out, even if it was the lesser spotted Cats who stole the show, the full-forward line of John Joe Farrell, Mark Kelly and Joe Brennan scoring the five goals and the excellent Liam Ryan, brother of Lester, firing over six points from play.
It was more than those who surrounded St Lachtain’s pitch had expected. A win and the promise of another day out next weekend would have appeased their withdrawal symptoms.
People in these parts had never known a hibernation like it. Exactly 167 days had passed since their team last took to the field in last July’s All-Ireland quarter-final. A lifetime for most but an eternity for them.
In 1997, they went out of the Championship on July 13, losing the Leinster final to Offaly, but had the solace of a pre-Christmas National League start. A year earlier they exited on June 2, losing a semi-final to Wexford, but compensation was forthcoming in being able to circle autumnal dates.
This hiatus would have involved more soul-searching than previous breaks as Kilkenny failed to reach Croke Park for the first time in Brian Cody’s tenure.
No U21 cubs in Cats’ clothing as in previous Walsh Cup starts on this occasion, the PA announcement of Tommy Walsh’s name as a late addition to the team with Paul Murphy greeted by a murmur in the stand.
Along with Colin Fennelly, they were the only three starters from the quarter-final defeat by Cork in yesterday’s team, which provided four of the side that lost last year’s All-Ireland intermediate final.
TJ Reid also lined out, but this was the gilt-edged chance for the newcomers to impress Cody and most of them, especially the four new faces in attack, succeeded in doing just that.
“They played well — they linked up well,” said the manager. “A lot of players haven’t been involved before and we’re trying to build a panel and we’d be happy with what we saw.
“The league is four weeks away, and we have another game (v Galway) Sunday, which is good to get. It’s all about getting ready for the first league game down in Ennis. It’s a serious one so let’s see where we are after that.
“The reality is we’re working with a panel of savage players obviously and some players who are very anxious to get into the mix-up and those players did a lot of good for themselves today.”
While confirming Walsh’s substitution at half-time wasn’t injury-related — “we just wanted to give him the first-half,” Cody confirmed Henry Shefflin is currently taking a full part in training.
“Henry is good. He’s in training with us and he’s feeling fine.”
Kilkenny led 2-7 to 0-4 at half-time, their goals coming from Brennan and Farrell. While Reid at centre-forward was finding things difficult against Dublin’s Liam Rushe and Colin Fennelly involved in a good battle with Tipperary’s Kieran Bergin, the rest of their forwards were blossoming. Kelly used his pace well to score the first of his two second-half goals in the 45th minute. With 15 minutes remaining, Kilkenny were as many points ahead and Kelly added further damage in the 58th minute when he once again broke away. Farrell and a vibrant Ryan piled on the points and while DIT substitute Anthony Ryan scrambled home a dubious goal it was followed in the final minute by Farrell’s second, a rasping shot to the roof of the net.
Scorers for Kilkenny: JJ Farrell (2-3); M Kelly (2-1); TJ Reid (0-7, 4 frees, 1 65); L Ryan (0-6); J Brennan (1-1); C Fennelly (0-2); G Brennan, P Phelan, C Fogarty (0-1 each).
Scorers for DIT: N McMorrow (0-4, 1 free); A Ryan (1-0); P McDonagh, M Moloney (0-2 each); L Rushe (0-1).
KILKENNY: D Herity; C Fogarty, M Walsh, S Prendergast; P Murphy, J Holden, T Walsh; G Brennan, P Phelan; C Fennelly, TJ Reid, L Ryan; JJ Farrell, M Kelly, J Brennan.
Subs: R Doyle for T Walsh (half-time); K Kelly for C Fennelly (45).
DIT: F McGarry (Dublin); W Devereux (Wexford); G McManus (Dublin),F Power (do); L Prendergast (Wexford), L Rushe (Dublin), K Bergin (Tipperary); S Morris (Meath), D Horan (Offaly); T Connolly (Dublin), M Moloney (Kilkenny), J Henderson (Wicklow); N McMorrow (Dublin), L Óg McGovern (Wexford), J Hobbs (do).
Subs: P McDonagh (Cork) for J Hobbs (half-time); M O’Donoghue (Dublin) for W Devereux (43); A Ryan (Kilkenny) for T Connolly (53); J McManus (Dublin) for McMorrow (59); D Memory (Dublin) for L Prendergast (64).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow)