Monday 23 September 2019

Cyril Farrell: Cats make use of extra lives while Tribe show new threat

Conal Keaney will be back in Dublin fold
Conal Keaney will be back in Dublin fold

Cyril Farrell

They don't call them the Cats for nothing, and in games like this it always seems Kilkenny have an extra few lives. They clawed their way out of Parnell Park with a win yesterday, but while Dublin will be gutted they should take a lot of heart from this game.

They came out with a game-plan, stuck to it and it very nearly paid off. Sean Moran went in as sweeper behind the half-back line, Eoghan O'Donnell picked up TJ Reid and, for the most part, it was working.

Liam Rushe was causing a lot of trouble for Kilkenny's backs, and it says a lot about the effectiveness of their strategy that Dublin had bagged three goals before Kilkenny got one.

It shows what can happen in Championship hurling, that it truly is a different game to the League.

The reaction to Kilkenny's League final win was a little bit false - everyone was talking about how good they were again, and while they are still good, this was a get-out-of-jail win that showed they'll need to improve.

A lot of young fellas who did well for Kilkenny in the League were whisked off yesterday as Brian Cody became aware the game was getting away from him.

Colin Fennelly replaced Bill Sheehan and got a few nice points to keep them in the game.

Paul Murphy replaced Enda Morrissey midway through the second half and steadied the backs, while for Dublin, Conal Keaney was a huge loss when he went off injured.

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The Dublin backs were really throwing themselves at the ball, but you have to be very fit to do that and in the end, they just ran out of steam.

Reid and Eoin Murphy were both lethal from frees and those scores kept Kilkenny in the game when they should have been out of it.

When other teams are caught like that they'd probably have been beaten, but not Kilkenny; they had the firepower to go on and win it.

They eventually wore Dublin down, and though far more will be needed from Kilkenny later in the year, Cody will be content with where they're headed. This team will get stronger.

Dublin will be disappointed with the result, but not with their performance.

This was the strongest team they've had out all year and there were a lot of positives: they were very good in the air, which is unusual against Kilkenny, and Chris Crummey and Moran had great games.

But they have to go to Wexford now and that'll be a very different game because Wexford will know what to expect.

It's early days in the All-Ireland race, but for me the team to beat is still Galway. There were a lot of questions about their form but they answered them in Tullamore on Saturday.

This was the first time the panel was all together to play, so they'll improve a ton and there'll be that air of confidence about them now, which was visible in how they played, scoring five goals - more than double what they managed in last year's Championship.

They weren't just content with tapping the ball and taking the point; they were taking the extra step and going for goal, and they were creating chances.

Last year they just went for points. Winning an All-Ireland gives you that extra confidence - you have a bit of a swagger and you feel it's your right to get goals.

Joe Cooney was electric for the first half for Galway, and while Offaly certainly squared up to them, the Galway forwards are simply class.

They were a bit rusty at times but they'll have been delighted to get out of Tullamore with a win.

They have two weeks to the next game, which suits because they'll find they can sharpen up again. Galway have their team settled, and if the backs can keep it tight through the summer, they'll be able to score enough up front to win any game.

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