Heavy loss leaves Cody's Kilkenny at familiar crossroads
Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30
With every nail that Clare hammered in Kilkenny's coffin, the aura of invincibility about the three-in-a-row-chasing Cats was eroded for all to see. A new dawn awakens as the Banner and Waterford re-invent the game.
Then a sense of déjà vu kicks in. Roll back to 2010 when Tipperary ruthlessly ended the 'drive for five'. The young Premier men were set to rule the hurling world after a senior/U-21 double. They haven't won Liam MacCarthy since.
Dublin humiliated Brian Cody's men in the 2011 League final but haven't subsequently made a September appearance, while a harrowing Leinster final defeat to Galway a year later looked set to end their reign of dominance.
All three defeats shook Kilkenny to their core. Lesser sides have thrown in the towel and limped away but such behaviour doesn't befit greatness. Scarcely has there ever been a team to react to a potential power shift in such devastating fashion.
Lessons were learned and the Hogan Stand steps were still scaled after those setbacks. They don't usually need wake-up calls but when they come, there's no snooze button. And crashing back down to earth could be just what Doctor Cody ordered.
The Waterford defeat apart, there were no signs of an All-Ireland hangover as they eked out wins against Tipperary and Cork in typical fashion. It papered over the cracks. Cracks that were blown wide open on Sunday.
Cody stood back. Surveying all before him, he soaked it all in. Cool. Calm. Collected. Rarely showing emotion, but thinking. Always thinking. Searching for answers. The funny thing is, Cody will have little to do. The bit will almost automatically be inserted back between their teeth.
Complacency seeped in and they were out-Kilkennyed by Clare. Outfought and outthought. But time is on their side and small steps will already have been taken to remedy the problems.
Without Paul Murphy, the rock of their rearguard, Joey Holden and Shane Prendergast were brutally exposed. Both seized the opportunities thrust upon them last season to make a seamless transition. But serious questions weren't asked by opposition then. They will be from here on in.
They will have learned. Cody will have learned. You're unlikely to see anyone isolated on the edge of the square again. You're unlikely to see goalkeeper Eoin Murphy and Holden running into each other again. Two of the goals were blatant Kilkenny mistakes.
The communication lines were cut off for 70 minutes, frazzled by Clare's exuberance, but that's easily fixed. Kilkenny are notorious for dragging opposition all over the place, not the other way around. So expect normal order to be restored soon.
Their first response on Sunday was to dig their heels in despite playing second fiddle all over the pitch. Even with the game over as a contest, they were defiant and still hit a remarkable 2-19.
It'll be eight weeks before we see the Cats in competitive action again, awaiting the winners of Wexford/Dublin in the Leinster SHC semi-final. They were in similar strife last season but whatever happens in Nowlan Park seems to transform them.
With heavy duty artillery to return, the only time to beat the champions is when there's no time to regroup and respond. The will is there, so they will find a way. They always do.