Friday 13 December 2019

King Henry has the cunning and guile to reign in replay

The All-Ireland final replay will be a new drawing board for Kilkenny boss Brian Cody and it could be ready for Henry Shefflin to leave a large imprint. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE
The All-Ireland final replay will be a new drawing board for Kilkenny boss Brian Cody and it could be ready for Henry Shefflin to leave a large imprint. Photo: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Cyril Farrell

The hurling world may be still spinning in a giddy orbit, basking in the glow and the glory of last Sunday's All-Ireland final but you can take it that Brian Cody, Eamon O'Shea and everyone else in the Kilkenny and Tipperary camps had their feet back on solid ground very quickly after the game.

Whether it was the best All-Ireland final of all time will make for some great arguments over the winter but it won't matter a damn to whichever side loses the replay.  In fact, it will only add to the disappointment.

Last year's Cork-Clare replay was just as good – if not better – than the drawn game and, no doubt, there's an awful lot more to come in Round 2 of Kilkenny-Tipp too.

Both will have analysed Sunday's game in detail by now with a view to sorting out issues and areas which caused them problems and to begin planning for the replay. Both Cody and O'Shea have plenty to mull over, most of all whether they go with the same starting teams the next day.


In terms of selection, Cody certainly has plenty to reflect on because a number of his team didn't play as well as they can. Virtually all of Tipperary players came closer to peak performances, but that was not the case for Kilkenny.

Strange as it may seem, that’s a worry for Tipperary, on the basis that so many of them did very well, yet they still didn't win, whereas the Kilkenny performance level was uneven in parts, yet they didn't lose.

Joey Holden, Brian Hogan, Walter Walsh, Eoin Larkin and Colin Fennelly are all capable of better for Kilkenny and may well deliver in the replay, if they get the chance. Obviously some (maybe even all!) of them will start, but if I were selecting the team, I would make two changes – Padraig Walsh for Joey Holden and Henry Shefflin for Walter Walsh.

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I thought Padraig Walsh was unlucky to lose his place for the start last Sunday and nothing happened on the day changed that view. I would slot him in at No 5, bring Shefflin in for Walter Walsh in attack; play Richie Hogan in the half-forward line, with Michael Fennelly at midfield.

People were surprised that Shefflin didn't come in until the final five minutes last Sunday, especially when Aidan Fogarty was brought in ahead of him. Obviously, Cody has his reasons but the replay is a new drawing board and could be ready for a large Shefflin imprint.

Cody has never backed off from making changes so it would be wrong to assume that because Shefflin got so little action last Sunday, he won't start the next day. Every game is different and while there's no reason to believe that the replay won't be very tight, it could have a different texture to last Sunday. That’s where Shefflin could make a big difference.

Tipperary know what it’s like to take on a Kilkenny forward line without him, so will  Cody decide to present them with a different challenge by confronting them with his most experienced player? I would.

After all, it's not as if the six starting forwards last Sunday nailed down places. Nor did Aidan Fogarty. Shefflin's arrival would worry Tipperary, for while he may no longer have the legs to indulge in the sprint mania which was such a key part of last Sunday's open game, he has the hurling brain and naturally cunning to impose himself on proceedings.

After all, winning hurling isn't all about speed. It’s part of it but so too is skill, experience and, in Shefflin's case, that special range of extras he brings to his game.

Hogan blossomed when he switching to the half-forward line and with another game under his belt, Michael Fennelly will be more comfortable if asked to do the grafting role around midfield.

On the Tipperary side, I think they have to play Michael Cahill. I would slot him into the team with one brief – if Richie Hogan goes for a walk on the roof of the stand, join him. Hogan is crucial to everything Kilkenny are doing this year, so it's not a sign of weakness for the opposition to delegate a man-marker.

Besides, as well as being a tight marker, Cahill is good on the ball as he showed last Sunday, not least when he he popped up and shot a crucial point. I would be surprised if he is not in the starting line-up next time - he's too good to leave out.


Poor striking shouldn't spark penalty change

I'm a bit surprised by the rush for change to how many of the defending team should be allowed on the line for penalty strikes.

Now, there may be a good reason to reduce the number, arising from the change of rule on how close the striker can be, but it should not be rushed into. That no goals resulted from two penalties in last Sunday's final has led to a deluge of calls to cut the number on the line from three to one.

Steady on there for a moment. Both Seamus Callanan and John O'Dwyer would be the first to admit that their shots were poorly hit. Some of the other penalty misses this summer were equally poor, so is a rule to be changed because of low-quality striking?

This has got to be thought through properly, rather than reacting to what has happened in a few games. If the rule is to be changed, then it should be done after conclusive evidence emerges that even the best-struck penalties aren't ending up in the net.


Banner boys all set for historic All-Ireland treble

It's Wexford's bad luck that when they reached the All-Ireland U-21 final for the first time in 13 years, one of the best teams in history of the competition awaits them.

Clare are going for the three-in-a-row, proof of just how strong they are at this level and while Wexford hurled very well to beat Galway, this is a step up again. This Clare squad has been together since their minor days and would dearly love to write themselves into Banner history with an U-21 treble.

There's a lot more to the panel than the big-name players who featured in last year's senior All-Ireland win but, speaking of one of them, I saw Colm Galvin turn in a massive game for Clonlara recently.

He's still getting better, which augurs well for the seniors. Wexford were deserving winners against Galway, battling back bravely when they looked in trouble in the second-half and will come on from that. Still, I would be very surprised if they have the all-round game to out-smart this multi-talented Clare group.

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