Cody's big guns blow Waterford away
Kilkenny 4-22 Waterford 0-14 Allianz NHL Div 1A
Much of this spring's focus has centred on how Kilkenny would react to last summer's chastening experience.
Their unfamiliar early exit and the rare shake-up of both the back-room team and panel put the Cats into new territory.
But yesterday they showed that the changes are working as they produced their most clinical half of hurling this year, with a performance that echoed some of the demolition jobs that became their calling card over the last decade.
They took only a two-point lead in at the break, but in the second 35 minutes they moved to that level where other teams have found it too hard to follow over the years. They hit 3-15 in a stunning second-half display, keeping Waterford to just 0-6.
Brian Cody was typically understated afterwards, but it was no coincidence that his side produced their best with several of their big guns back in the side – JJ Delaney made his first start of the year at full-back; Henry Shefflin, Colin Fennelly and Eoin Larkin were together in the forwards; and Richie Power was sprung from the bench to hit two points.
Even at that, Tommy Walsh and Brian Hogan didn't feature, while Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice are back in contention and could see action in next week's league quarter-final against Wexford.
"First of all, we have qualified for the quarter-finals which was the first thing and we have looked at a lot of players," Cody said. "We used (the league) that way. A lot of them have sampled action, so we'd be happy there's a good depth to the panel."
Remarkably, it took Kilkenny 16 minutes to get their first score on the board, when Colin Fennelly pointed. At that stage, Waterford had raised three white flags.
Pauric Mahony's free-taking in the first half was exemplary against a difficult breeze but there was a rarity at the other end with Shefflin missing three frees on the bounce as the Cats struggled for traction early on.
However, once Fennelly opened their account, Cody's men were ruthless in what was a sign of things to come. They produced a five-minute spell that yielded 1-3. Shefflin found his range from play and then from a free before Jonjo Farrell shovelled a loose ball to the net after Larkin's run caused panic in the Deise defence. Larkin offloaded to Mark Kelly and his shot was saved before falling to Farrell who made no mistake.
Walter Walsh followed up with another score and while Waterford's early confidence had been rattled, they managed to stay in touch through Mahony's accuracy from frees and an excellent Shane O'Sullivan point.
Richie Hogan's point from Jackie Tyrrell's superb pass was the last score of the half as the hosts took a 1-7 to 0-8 lead in at the break.
On the restart, Brian Kennedy extended the lead to three before Shefflin dropped another free short. Their charity would end there, however, and despite a superb sideline cut from Waterford's Austin Gleeson, Kilkenny were taking complete control.
Larkin grabbed the game's second goal on 40 minutes after Power's assist to extend the gap to five, and that seemed to knock the life out of the Deise.
For a side who managed just one goal in five league outings, it might have looked like a gulf that couldn't be bridged.
If Waterford looked to have checked out, the Cats were steaming ahead as Shefflin turned over Jamie Barron for a point from play and Fennelly added to their tally.
Only Ray Barry managed to swim against the tide, hitting four points from play after his introduction late in the first half for the injured Maurice Shanahan. In fact, Waterford's starting line-up managed just four points from play in the entire 70 minutes.
The Cats were rampant, and when Mark Kelly goaled after 48 minutes when set up by good approach work from Larkin and Fennelly, it was clear things were going to get very ugly for Derek McGrath's side.
As is their wont, Kilkenny didn't let up. The busy Richie Hogan landed a beauty from the sideline before Kelly got his second major. Indeed, the O'Loughlin Gaels man might have had a hat-trick when he got another sight of goal after being put through by TJ Reid, but the angle was too tight and Stephen O'Keeffe did well to force him out of bounds.
By that stage, Kilkenny had long been playing for places in the side for next weekend's quarter-final, with Cody hinting that he is ready to tone down the experimentation, having used 31 different players in the league.
"Like everyone else, we'll start settling things a bit. You look at different options for different days and we'd be happy that there is the potential in the panel to do that," he said.
"We're reasonably happy with the whole situation now. The two players who haven't come back in yet are Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice and they are pretty much ready to come back. They have a good bit of training behind them, especially Michael Fennelly, and we'll take it on form there.
"Opportunities will arise at various times for people, but the reality is what we are interested in having is strength in depth in our panel."
SCORERS – Kilkenny: H Shefflin 0-7 (5fs), M Kelly 2-0, E Larkin 1-2, C Fennelly 0-4, W Walsh, R Hogan 0-3 each, JJ Farrell 1-0, R Power 0-2, B Kennedy 0-1. Waterford: Pauric Mahony 0-5 (5fs), R Barry 0-4, B O'Sullivan 0-2, S O'Sullivan, J Barron, A Gleeson (s-l) 0-1 each.
Kilkenny – E Murphy 6; P Murphy 7, JJ Delaney 7, J Holden 7; B Kennedy 7, J Tyrell 7, C Buckley 7; P Walsh 7, R Hogan 8; W Walsh 8, C Fennelly 8, H Shefflin 7; JJ Farrell 6, M Kelly 8, E Larkin 8. Subs: R Power 8 for Farrell (28), K Joyce 7 for Kennedy (52), L Ryan 7 for Walsh (56), TJ Reid 6 for Hogan (58).
Waterford – S O'Keeffe 6; T de Burca 6, S Fives 6, N Connors 7; J Nagle 5, M Walsh 6, Philip Mahony 6; K Moran 6, S O'Sullivan 7; J Barron 6, Pauric Mahony 6, S Molumphy 6; M Shanahan 6, B O'Sullivan 6, A Gleeson 6. Subs: B Couglan 6 for Nagle (32), R Barry 8 for Shanahan (34), S Prendergast 6 for Gleeson (49), R Donnelly 6 for Baron (60).
REF – J Owens (Wexford).