No alarm for Cats despite player retirements, says Skehan

Noel Skehan:  Safety concerns must override rule book when it comes to close-in frees.

Kilkenny hurling legend Noel Skehan insists there’s no cause for alarm despite the haemorrhaging of All-Ireland winning experience from the county.

Veteran defender Brian Hogan and corner-forward Aidan Fogarty are the latest players to confirm their retirements, joining Tommy Walsh and David Herity.

It amounts to the loss of four players who possessed 29 All-Ireland medals between them as well as 11 All Stars.

Nine-time medallist and former Cats selector Skehan accepted it will strip the dressingroom of a core of precious experience. But he rejected the suggestion that Kilkenny should be alarmed by the developments as they eye the defence of their Allianz League and Championship crowns.

“I’m quite sure that Brian Cody has a two- or three-year plan in his head anyhow,” said Skehan.

“I’m not downplaying the loss because whenever you take that amount of All-Ireland medals out of a dressingroom it’s got to be a loss. You won’t replace that overnight by any means.

“But would I be alarmed for Kilkenny? No, I wouldn’t. Kilkenny had about 35 on the panel this year and the most you can bring on match days is 26.

“You had lads who showed up well for their clubs and are eager to get involved too so I see Brian having a pretty strong panel at his disposal again.

“There is definitely good players in Kilkenny who will come in now and you can be sure Brian knows exactly who he wants in there.”

Henry Shefflin could yet be a fifth senior player to retire, potentially robbing the panel of 39 All-Ireland senior medals. Shefflin moved one ahead of Skehan in September when he collected his 10th medal.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for him not to stay on,” said Skehan of the 35-year old. “He’s playing quite well at club level.

“And in circumstances, with a lot of experienced guys going, it may be even more important that he would stay.

“I’m sure Henry knows himself what he’s going to do but has decided to say nothing until the Shamrocks are finished up.”

Neither Hogan nor Fogarty featured in this year’s All-Ireland final replay win over Tipperary though Hogan started the drawn game and Fogarty appeared as a sub in it.

Fogarty collected eight All-Ireland medals and was man-of-the-match in 2006 final against Cork when he shot 1-3.

Hogan was a regular for more of his career, captaining the 2011 All-Ireland winning team and starting this season right up until being controversially dropped for the final replay.

Meanwhile, Tipperary’s John O’Brien, who appeared as a sub in that game, has also retired. The two-time All-Ireland medallist scored two points from corner-forward in the 2010 decider win over Kilkenny.

He was described by former colleague Brendan Cummins as a “class forward and great leader” while current All Star John O’Dwyer said he is “an absolute true Tipp hero... who was such a leader on and off the pitch.”


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