Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 20 November 2017

The only plan must be to win one-in-a-row

We splashed and planed through Inistioge and Thomastown and I knew it was a bad day when I spotted a pair of mallard taking shelter under the lazy eye of the bridge at Bennetsbridge. Yet even in the deluge these river places were quaint, picturesque, friendly and full of All-Ireland medals.

If you melted them all down into gold bars the recession would be over. But in Kilkenny you're only as good as your last gold medal. History is here and now for hurting Cats.

As we drove by Nowlan Park, we spotted the flash of a black and amber jersey through the bars of the gates. Surely Brian Cody wouldn't have his team out training the evening after the hammering by Galway.

On your behalf we checked it out but it was the U-21s and, as if by way of reassurance, they hammered a courageous Laois by 20 points three days later.

There's no such thing as a three-year plan in Kilkenny; it's a one-year plan. Win or else.

New Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made his first big mistake ever before a ball has been kicked. "I'm here to put the foundations in place. I want to systemise it, and that's more important to me than any trophies," he said.

If you said that in Kilkenny or Kerry, they'd have your letter of resignation ready for signing before you finished the sentence.

Kerry are the football equivalent of Kilkenny. In Kerry a three-year plan is to win three All-Irelands in a row. Kilkenny lost the five-in-a-row to Tipp. We lost to Offaly and Seamus Darby's goal was definitely 'offside'.

It took us years to get over the Golden Years of the 1970s and '80s and it wasn't until Liam Hassett famously declared in 1997 "ta an gorta thart" (the famine is over) that we reclaimed Sam.

So are Kilkenny finished? Is there a famine on the way? Again we'll go back to Kerry.

I was on the sideline when the great Tim Kennelly was knocked by a shoulder. That was the first time Tim was ever felled. He was past his best by then but, even so, it came as a great shock.

Henry Shefflin was knocked down by a shoulder against Galway. I can't recall ever having seen that before. Henry didn't play great -- he scored only 1-8.

That's the standard he sets for himself and the kids who are coming after him. I have no doubt but there's some young lad knocking tin cans off walls with sliotars from 70 metres, but the Cats still need Henry.

Shefflin isn't finished but, after a succession of serious injuries, he is unable to dominate as he did for the last 10 years. This is his toughest challenge ever.

They talked about the hurling in Cleere's of Kilkenny on Monday night during the break from the lilting music. There was an attempt by my brother John to lighten the conversation with black humour.

He had been at a funeral. The deceased man who had a brown tan was laid out in an open coffin. "Wasn't he just back from Lanzarote?" asked a lady in the sorry-for-your-troubles queue.

"Yes," said her friend, "and it done him the world of good."

But even death isn't as important as Kilkenny hurling and the talk went on. There was no knocking Cody or his team. The consensus was this was a battle lost where all the casualties come alive again. The back door was made for Kilkenny and Kerry too.

Kerry were also hammered. By Cork. Now we travel to Mullingar tomorrow to play Westmeath.


Kerry will be hot favourites but it's National League weather and scores will be hard to come by. Jack has introduced new blood.

James O' Donoghue was the best of the Kerry forwards when he came on a sub against Cork.

Our own Brian Maguire is on at wing-back. He's a good lad who will not stand back. His glamorous granny Edith was born in England but she learned the game inside out and was a club junior selector in her 70s.

Brian's uncle Mike played Kerry minor and went on to ride rodeo bulls professionally in the States.

I would have played Barry John Keane up front also and Peter Crowley in the back line. Kerry need pace and I hope we get tighter on our men.

One Cork player left 10 yards of space between himself and his Kerry marker the last day. Ideally a marker should only be separated from his man by an operation. Yes, Jack is team-building but it's not a total overhaul.

The one-year plan is to win the one-in-a-row. And I think we have every chance of successfully executing this short-term goal.

Irish Independent

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