Wednesday 24 May 2017

Cody's men cruising as Reid points way for Cats

Kilkenny 6-27 Antrim 0-19

Antrim’s John Dillon rises high into the air to make a fine fetch ahead of Kilkenny defender Michael Walsh during yesterday’s Bórd na Mona Walsh Cup at Abbotstown in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Antrim’s John Dillon rises high into the air to make a fine fetch ahead of Kilkenny defender Michael Walsh during yesterday’s Bórd na Mona Walsh Cup at Abbotstown in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

In one sense, Kilkenny were the perfect hosts.

Agreeing to move what was a home fixture for them to a halfway point of the GAA's new National Development Centre in Abbotstown, in Dublin, made life significantly easier for Antrim.

And despite the result, Saffrons boss Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton was grateful to Kilkenny for the switch and reckoned they'd like to come back.

Kilkenny's hospitality didn't extend beyond a change of venue, however.

The first-half was reasonably competitive, but there was always a sense that Kilkenny were ready to cut loose.

A team that featured eight of the side that started last year's All-Ireland final, and also had two former Hurler of the Year winners in Richie Hogan and TJ Reid in the full-forward line, always carry that sort of threat.

Conor Martin of Kilkenny has a shot on goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Martin of Kilkenny has a shot on goal. Photo: Sportsfile

Antrim tried hard in the opening exchanges, but Kilkenny still ran in two goals inside the opening nine minutes. The first came about thanks to Reid's artistry. His pinpoint, cross-field ball found Walter Walsh, who fed Jonjo Farrell and he made no mistake from close range to get his side off to a flyer.

Antrim eventually did get to grips with things. Conor McKinley landed two fine scores from near the touchline and at one stage they hit four points with no reply to cut the gap to two. They also had the ball in the net in that purple patch, only to see the score ruled out for a square ball.

That was as good as it got for the Ulster men. By half-time Kilkenny had stretched their legs and taken an eight-point lead.

By the final whistle they would have 26 points to spare.

Neal McAuley of Antrim in action against TJ Reid of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Neal McAuley of Antrim in action against TJ Reid of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

It could have been even more had they not butchered a couple of clear-cut chances and had Antrim goalkeeper Chris O'Connell not made several fine stops.

Reid was superb throughout; Hogan had his moments. Kilkenny were simply on a different level.

Afterwards, McNaughton wasn't trying to hide from what he had just seen. His side have, he agreed, far more modest ambitions than trying to mix it with Kilkenny.

Transition

And he smiled when it was put to him that many expect Kilkenny to enter a period of transition.

"I read a book once and this American football coach said about the team out of Texas, the Cowboys: 'Son, in Texas we don't rebuild - we reload!' The reality is we're trying to get out of a division (2B), trying to get Antrim back to some level of respectability," McNaughton said.

"Kilkenny are one of the top two teams in Ireland. Their movement is so good. That comes from years of playing against the top teams in Ireland.

"You don't just come here and flick a switch - that's not how the sport works.

"Kilkenny's timing is better because they are more experienced at that level.

"We're asking young fellas that are playing Division 2 and Division 3 in Antrim hurling to go and mark Richie Hogan, TJ Reid, people like that.

"There was a spell in the first-half when we were playing good hurling and our movement was good. It's Walsh Cup, the beginning of the year. Our goal is to try and get out of our division (2B)."

Cats manager Brian Cody wasn't getting overly excited about his side's performance, despite their winning margin. However, he could only tog out 20 due to injuries and players on college duty and his cause wasn't helped when Michael Walsh was helped off with what looked like a knee injury.

Cody also confirmed that Michael Fennelly is on the "long term" injury list after an operation on his troublesome back.

"We are happy enough with the game," he said. "It wasn't a question of how much you could win by - try and win the game, play as well as you can. It's the first game of the year, so we're happy enough."

For McNaughton, Antrim have a long way to go. It starts with promotion from Division 2B and he suggested that Croke Park could take on Antrim hurling as a "project".

"We have gone with four or five outside managers in a row and, no disrespect to them, it's not just their fault, there's a whole combination of things, but we've gotten worse and worse and worse," he said.

"Someone has to stop the rot and put foundations in place and the first thing we are looking for is commitment from the players - players who are going to turn up on Sundays and put the effort in.

"If we do that over the next year or whatever and leave it in a better place than we found it and then someone can bring it on another level.

"But there is massive work to be done on the primary schools in Belfast and things like that. It's a real project for the GAA I think."

SCORERS - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-13 (9f, 2 '65), J Farrell 2-1, R Hogan 1-4, P Lyng 0-4, R Leahy 2-0, O Walsh 1-0, C Martin 0-3, W Walsh 0-2.

Antrim: C Clarke 0-8 (7f), N McKenna 0-5, C McKinley 0-2, N McManus, J Dillon, C Johnston, D Murphy 0-1 each

Kilkenny: E Murphy; J Holden, M Walsh, S Prendergast; P Murphy, R Lennon, C Fogarty; C Martin, O Walsh; P Lyng, W Walsh (L Ryan 50), R Leahy; R Hogan, JJ Farrell, TJ Reid Subs: K Joyce for Lennon (44), C O'Shea for Prendergast, L Ryan for Walsh (both 50), S Prendergast for Walsh (70).

Antrim: C O'Connell; O McFadden, S Rooney, M Donnelly; S McCrory, N McAuley, C McKinley; E Campbell, N McManus; N McKenna, C McCann, P McGill; C Clarke, J Dillon, C Johnston Subs: T Coyle for O McFadden, D Murphy McGill (both HT), J Maskey for Rooney (60), M Dudley for Campbell, J McNaughton for Johnston (both 61).

Ref: P O'Dwyer (Carlow)

Irish Independent

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