Sport Hurling

Thursday 26 April 2018

All bets are off after result that breathes life into the summer

Cyril Farrell

WHAT a game to hang your season on. Next Saturday night in Nowlan Park all bets are off and either Kilkenny or Tipperary will be finished for 2013.

If Tipperary can win there and knock Kilkenny out, they will be in a really great place. The Cats' air of invincibility has gone and, in my view, if they can win the All-Ireland it will be the greatest resurrection of all time.

They have given great service and nobody would complain if this was the end of the road for them. They've been a marvellous team, but they are not machines.

Michael Fennelly and Henry Shefflin are missing from Brian Cody's side and you can see that their absence is hurting the team. They have to come back to the fold, but both sides will know that they have realistic hopes of making September if they can grind out a victory next weekend.

Given what we know about them, Kilkenny are hard to write off, but Tipperary will feel they can have a big say in the season if they can get out of Nowlan Park with a win.

REPLICATE

I'm sure Cody will try to replicate the impact Walter Walsh had in the All-Ireland final replay last season by throwing in a new face, perhaps Ger Aylward.

Nobody in Kilkenny will be complaining if this is the end of this team; they have given great service to their county and their jersey.

Saturday's clash is just part of the story. If you had suggested before the championship that the line-ups for this year's provincial finals would be as they are, I'd have laughed.

However, hurling is reaping the rewards of the shocks and seeing Dublin take on Galway and Limerick face Cork has breathed new life into the game at an important time. Hurling needed revitalisation and this will bring it.

With Waterford improving through the back door and a huge, winner-takes-all game in Nowlan Park next weekend, the season is alive. To think that either Kilkenny or Tipperary will be out of the running by the first weekend in July is almost unfathomable. It is great for the game.

All of a sudden, Dublin have momentum and after successive games against Kilkenny those lads won't be feeling the belts when they come. They are battle-hardened.

Anthony Daly's side took the game to the Cats and led from start to finish. It was noticeable that they pulled two forwards back into their half-back line while the four forwards rotated up and crowded midfield. They stuck to their plan and worked hard at it.

Daly used that template when he was in charge of Clare when they took on Kilkenny in the same way and he knew that you can't let the All-Ireland champions open up. It was important for Dublin to get in front early, keep it tight and control the game.

Some teams would be struggling after the tough run of games Dublin have had, but Daly's team are young and fit and they are growing stronger from week to week.

The extra games have done them good and it has helped the Clare man settle on his best team.

Daly now knows his best starting 15 and the guys he trusts to bring into big games. Stephen Hiney is hurling well, Liam Rushe was immense on Saturday. Joey Boland performed well again and Johnny McCaffrey is back to himself.

Danny Sutcliffe showed why he is so highly rated, while Dotsy O'Callaghan played with confidence. It was an excellent display.

They had a shaky start against Wexford, but every week since we have seen improvements to their game. They are in a very good place going to Croke Park next Sunday.

I saw the teams play in a challenge match during the league and, while the Tribesmen got a great start, Dublin got back into it and took over. The teams know each other well.

The Dubs are playing with panache. They might have a controlled game but they had a cut against Kilkenny and were not the rabbit caught in the headlights they might have been having missed their first chance.

The game plan that worked against the Cats will stand to them against Galway.

Dublin know that if they can stop the inside forward line from getting ball, then they will be hard for Galway to beat.

Finally, the weekend shouldn't pass without mention of Carlow's efforts against Wexford.

The imperative for them now is to hold onto manager John Meyler. Carlow had a fine league campaign, rarely losing by more than one or two points, and they are on the map. The Cork-based coach can keep them there.

Irish Independent

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