League plans taking shape for Cody as Kilkenny defy 'serious challenge'
Kilkenny 1-20 Offaly 3-11
An improved second-half display from Kilkenny saw them have three points to spare over Offaly as they advanced to the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup final and a meeting with Wexford next Sunday.
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody already has one eye on their league opener with Cork in two weeks' time.
"The Walsh Cup is good preparation for the league, we've a final coming up now against either Wexford or Dublin so that'll be a good game to get in advance of the first round of the league," Cody said after his team's victory in Bord na Móna O'Connor Park.
"The game against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a terrific game to start the league off with so that's what everyone is aiming towards.
"Everything is changed, things are starting much earlier, normally the league wouldn't start until about three weeks after, but it's brought forward and it's an early start for everybody, but we just have to get on with it.
Flying "Everyone isn't flying yet or anything like that but it's a question of working our way towards it and these games are hugely beneficial in that purpose."
Offaly led by 1-8 to 0-5 at one stage in the opening half with the goal coming from Conor Mahon but a fortunate goal from Ger Malone four minutes before half-time limited the damage for a below-par Kilkenny as Offaly, who were the better side in the opening half, only went in leading by a point at half-time - 1-10 to 1-9.
Richie Reid, Alan Murphy and Richie Leahy impressed throughout with their second-half scoring exploits pivotal to Kilkenny getting over the line.
Cody's charges wasted little time in turning things around in the second half and led 1-13 to 1-10 before a penalty from Shane Dooley brought the hosts back level. Kilkenny showed the greater guile in the closing 25 minutes with the home side held to just two more scores, one of them a goal from Shane Kinsella but Kilkenny were tagging on the points and held on to set up their final date.
Offaly boss Kevin Martin was happy with the run-out as he looks to their league opener with Dublin in two weeks.
"I was happy with the players; they put in a real good effort. They are training hard and are working hard. It is all about work rate, work rate, work rate," he said.
"It sets us up nicely for two weeks' time against Dublin. We need to get the niggly injuries sorted out. We will have a good few lads back for the Dublin game, the likes of Joe Bergin and Dan Currams.
"They are playing for their positions in two weeks' time. Every player wants to play in Croke Park. If they stay working the way they are, we will improve."
While Cody was keen to look forward to the season ahead, he also paid tribute to the retiring Michael Fennelly.
"A huge servant to hurling, to Kilkenny and to the Shamrocks. Outstanding player and probably the top midfielder in the country for a number of years there," the Kilkenny supremo reflected.
"He was fighting the odds for a long time due to injury and it's an even greater testament to him that he was still the player he was.
"Obviously he was on borrowed time and he knew that but he very much intended to try and give it another year, it just didn't work out for him. But very few players can look back on the type of career he's had, he can have no regrets."
TJ Reid was listed to play on Saturday but didn't take part with Cody confirming that the star forward was not injured while the return of Richie Hogan still looks to be a while away.
On a more positive note, Walter Walsh looks like being back for their league opener down in Cork in two weeks' time.
"Walter is more or less ready to go, Richie is still working away with his rehab, it's well known that he's had a fair amount of injuries over the last couple of years, he's not ready to go out onto the hurling field yet."
Despite those absentees, the Kilkenny supremo was more than satisfied with the effort put in by those who lined out in Tullamore.
"Lots of fellas did well, I won't individualise it or anything like that but we have good confidence in the players we have with us," he reasoned. "Everybody is working very hard and that's the first thing, it's not very simple for players at this time of year to show what they can do, but you're looking for commitment, you're looking for attitude and effort, and that's very good."
Scorers - Kilkenny: A Murphy 0-7 (6f), R Leahy & R Reid 0-4 each, G Malone 1-0, J Donnelly 0-2, J Walsh, B Sheehan & C Martin 0-1 each. Offaly: S Kinsella 1-3, S Dooley 1-1 (1-0 pen, 1f), C Mahon 1-0, E Cahill 0-3f, T Geraghty 0-2, L Langton and O'Kelly (f) 0-1 each.
Kilkenny - E Murphy; J Holden, R Lennon, P Deegan; C Fogarty, C Buckley, P Walsh; G Malone, C O'Shea; J Donnelly, R Reid, R Leahy; B Sheehan, A Murphy, J Walsh. Subs: E Morrissey for Malone (h-t), C Martin for J Walsh (h-t), C Delaney for Lennon (49), P Lyng for Leahy (54), M Keoghan for Sheehan (58).
Offaly - E Cahill; T Spain, D Shortt, B Conneely; P Delaney, P Camon, J Quinn; D King, T Geraghty; O Kelly, S Kinsella, C Egan; C Gath, C Mahon, L Langton. Subs: S Dooley for Egan (h-t), D Doughan for Shortt (51), C Cleary for Gath (54) C Molloy for Geraghty (58), P Rigney for Delaney (64),C Egan for Mahon (67, blood).
Ref - G McGrath (Dublin)