Early Action Indicates Exciting Hurling Season Ahead


Nowlan Park played host to the clash of Kilkenny and Tipperary last weekend. Unlike the international Six Nations game between Wales and France, the organisers in Kilkenny opted to play with the roof open. The storm hit frame of the old stand was all that was left and it’s skeletal remains proved to be an eerie backdrop to what turned out to be an enthralling battle between these closest of rivals. Ireland may have lost narrowly to the ‘auld enemy’ in London at the weekend and for much of this game, it looked like Kilkenny were going to follow suit.

An exhibition of goal taking from both sides kept the crowd involved until the very last minutes. If this were a sixty minute game, well then Tipperary would have just about done enough but it wasn’t and those last ten minutes proved more than fruitful for the home team. It looked from early on that Kilkenny would be put to the sword by a more accurate Tipperary. The storm that had done so much damage in Kilkenny the week previous was only playing second fiddle to the damage that Tipperary forward Seamus Callanan and his team mates were inflicting on the Kilkenny defence. After just fourteen minutes on the clock, Tipperary had amassed 3-3 on the scoreboard. It must be said that Tipperary were playing with a strong breeze behind their backs for the first half but their goals came from some very poor Kilkenny defending. Tipperary will be kicking themselves this morning that they managed to let a ten point lead disappear in front of their very eyes. The same two teams competed in the League Final in Nowlan Park last year, with the same winners emerging. They also played in the All Ireland qualifiers at the same venue in 2013 and so the Tipperary supporters and players will not want to return anytime soon.

To score 5-14 and lose by six points is disheartening in itself but it’s the way that it happened which will guile the Tipperary management more so. Tipperary were doing as they wished up front for the first thirty-five minutes. Their accuracy in front of goal and the taking of any chance to raise a green flag was impressive to say the least. There are no prizes on offer in February but what Kilkenny did do on Sunday was win even more respect from their hardcore followers. Colin Fennelly was outstanding at centre forward, he was probably a guy that had yet to live up to his potential before the game on Sunday and as he was substituted late in the game, the home crowd roared their approval for his efforts of the day. He contributed 3-6 from play and although he had some able assistants in Walter Walsh, Henry Shefflin and TJ Reid, he was by far the stand out player of the match and deservedly took away the man of the match award.

The arch rival factor and the loss in Ennis last week were also huge initiatives in a game that Kilkenny could ill afford to lose. Callanan bagged 3-6 for the visitors, five from frees and if Fennelly hadn’t of been on the field, he would have taken that man of the match award. Both managers will be livid with the amount of scores that their backs conceded. Brian Cody maybe more annoyed than his counter part as the Tipperary goals seemed to take less effort than the Kilkenny ones. 5-14 is a huge score to concede and still win, there’s plenty of work for the Kilkenny defence to do yet.

The league is again wide open with Dublin beating Clare and Waterford beating Galway. All six teams are now on two points after two outings with Galway on top spot by score difference, followed closely by Kilkenny and then Waterford. The action will continue with round 3 on the 9th of March. Tipperary will host All Ireland champions Clare, Waterford will be at home to Dublin and the reigning league champions will welcome Galway to Nowlan Park. More will be known closer to that date but it is widely expected that Kilkenny will again play with roof open. All three games have thriller potential, the hurling year is back up and running and if the first two rounds of games are anything to go by, well then we are in for some year and some battles.

Image courtesy of Boylesports.com

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