KILKENNY boss Brian Cody's fingers won't be pressing the panic button just yet but he knows how much hard work lies ahead as his side wind up for the All-Ireland five-in-a-row challenge after the Cats fell to their third league defeat in the current campaign, this time losing to Galway by 2-21 to 1-23.
That's above their average quota of defeats for an entire season throughout the last decade and means that they have almost certainly surrendered the League title which has so often been the precursor to the great championship onslaughts.
"Galway deserved to win -- we never really dominated the game," he said of yesterday's exciting encounter in Nowlan Park.
Mind you, they gave a very good impression of exerting total control when they outscored Galway by 1-7 to 0-1 in the third quarter to open up a five-point lead (1-16 to 0-14). It looked ominously reminiscent of Galway's collapse against Tipperary some weeks ago when, after turning an excellent first half, they were crushed in the second half.
However, this time Galway's response was altogether more constructive as they rattled into Kilkenny with a courageous mix of flair and power.
The introduction of subs Kevin Hynes, Iarla Tannian and Richie Cummins to the attack made a significant difference as did the dismissal of Kilkenny wing-back Paddy Hogan for a second bookable offence just after the hour mark.
Tipperary hit trouble as Déise share the spoils
Tipperary's easy course towards another League final hit an obstacle in the shape of Waterford yesterday as the visitors came away with a share of the spoils thanks to a 1-19 to 2-16 scoreline.
Eoin Kelly delivered the injury-time free that evened matters at Semple Stadium. Ten times the sides had been level in a contest rippling on the fringes of championship intensity.
If Tipp have a vice, it looks to be carelessness with a lead. They led 1-17 to 1-12 with 22 minutes remaining but weren't able to close out the game.
"Yeah, a little bit disappointed we didn't close it out, we were probably lucky enough in the finish," agreed Liam Sheedy with trademark candour. "We were tired finishing up; hanging on a bit. But it was a good game of hurling, good intensity, both teams fighting for their lives. We'll improve for it."
It was a contest that signposted the redemption claims of Dan Shanahan, who won that late Waterford free and, generally, had a positive 70 minutes, much of it spent in the vicinity of current All Star full-back, Paudie Maher. "I'm delighted," said Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald of the big Lismore man, the hurler of the year in 2007. "That'll do him a power of good."
Faithful deny Limerick morale-boosting win
Limerick came close to grabbing a morale-boosting win to relieve some of the pressure on Justin McCarthy when they were edged out, 2-17 to 3-13, by Offaly in Tullamore yesterday.
While Offaly's wastefulness may have kept the door open for them, Limerick should have snatched a point at the very least as they missed two great chances in injury time. With Offaly clinging on to a one-point lead, Richard McKeogh was wide with a decent goal chance and a minute later Paul Browne was also wide of the target with an opportunity that would have given Limerick a share of the spoils.
It was a relieved Offaly side that heard the final whistle blow, especially as they seemed to be doing to their utmost to throw it away in the final quarter as Shane Dooley had three bad wides from frees in the closing minutes. Joe Bergin also spurned a good late chance to wrap it up when his shot was blocked.