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County crown can bring best out of Village


James Stephens (Kilkenny) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford)

(Nowlan Park, Tomorrow, 2.30)

AROUND about this time last year, Oulart-The Ballagh were warm favourites for All-Ireland club glory after Carrickshock had defeated the pre-eminent Leinster kingpins, Ballyhale Shamrocks, in Kilkenny warfare and Portumna were ousted in Galway.

This time around, they're marginal outsiders to beat James Stephens, a team which few gave any hope of winning silverware in the county prior to their replay victory over Ballyhale last weekend.

Maybe that goes to show the level of strength within Kilkenny that they can produce a handful of clubs who could breath in the rarefied air of provincial club competition and 'The Village' are undoubtedly one.


Usually, the rule of the GAA is that the favourites always win replays. Niall Rigney's men bucked that particularly trend in incredible fashion in Nowlan Park last Sunday, though, beating Shefflin, Fennelly and co by eight points.

Eoin Larkin's form is to be marvelled at and next year's Kilkenny captain shot 1-11 over the course of that match but James Stephens will miss their other marquee name, Jackie Tyrrell, after he was sent off for a clash with Michael Fennelly.

Oulart aren't without their charms, of course, and in Rory and Michael Jacob they possess two dynamic hurlers, capable of setting the pace while Keith Rossiter remains a titanic presence in their defence.

But presuming James Stephens celebrations didn't last beyond Tuesday, they should be in the right frame of mind and body to win through to a semi-final.

ODDS: James Stephen 5/6, Draw 8/1, Oulart-The Ballagh 6/5

VERDICT: James Stephens