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Cody's Cats can rise to the challenge and kill off Waterford



(Nowlan Park, Tomorrow 2.0, live TG4)

DVD post-mortems and dressing-room soul-searching are sure to have played at least some role in the Kilkenny and Waterford build-ups to tomorrow's critical last day in Division 1A.

Waterford are hoping to atone for their first-half annihilation by Clare last Sunday – a process of redemption that, in fairness, started on the resumption in Ennis.

Kilkenny must also make amends for shortcomings exposed by Dublin the previous night. Under the watchful glare of the Parnell Park lights and the Setanta cameras, their defence suffered a first-half chasing while their forwards didn't do enough with the second-half wind in their backs either. The net result: a second away defeat this spring for Brian Cody's former kingpins.

Given their experimental state, with wholesale selection changes from game to game, perhaps it's no great surprise to see Kilkenny where they are right now: balanced on a knife-edge between quarter-final advancement and possible relegation.

The good news here? They're at home, which partly explains why Boylesports have priced them at a short-odds 1/5 to beat the Déise.

We all know the lopsided stat by now: of the 12 games played in Division 1A thus far, 11 have resulted in home victories and you've got to wonder if Waterford (who have lost their previous road trips to Tipperary and Clare) have the wherewithal to buck that trend in Kilkenny's own citadel. Moreover, that first-half horror show in Ennis has raised probing questions about a previously resolute defence.

There can be no mitigating circumstances (not even the wind or Brick Walsh's suspension) for a half-time scoreline reading 4-15 to 0-4. Was this the same full-back line that defended so defiantly against Dublin the week before?

Afterwards, Derek McGrath described it as a "chastening experience" for players and management. However, the year-one boss was far more encouraged by the second-half response (they 'won' it 0-16 to 1-3) and will hope Waterford can carry that same attitude into Nowlan Park battle, bolstered as they are by the return of Walsh, their skipper and defensive talisman.

Both teams are perched precariously on four points, knowing victory will secure a quarter-final whereas defeat could propel them into relegation play-off trouble. Kilkenny have the superior scoring difference (+5 compared to -7) and so would appear to have a better chance of survival in the event of losing; but there are no guarantees.

Likewise, in Cody's brave new world of upheaval, there are no guarantees for all the long-serving veterans and young wannabes vying for a Kilkenny championship place. They are all on trial right now.

The ante has been upped and the Cats, cheered on by their own, should rise to the challenge.

ODDS: Kilkenny 1/5, Draw 12/1, Waterford 4/1

VERDICT: Kilkenny