Thursday 14 December 2017

Wounded cats to hit ground running

GAELIC GAMES

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has been reinstalled even earlier than usual, for a 15th season
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has been reinstalled even earlier than usual, for a 15th season
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

KILKENNY'S mini-revolution following their earliest championship exit since 1996 continued after it was revealed that the Cats will field a full-strength side in January's Walsh Cup.

For the last two seasons, Kilkenny have used the pre-season competition to blood U-21 players, with Richie Mulrooney taking charge of their experimental line-ups.

However, the Cats are expected to choose from a full-strength panel when they take on either DIT or Westmeath on January 19 in their seasonal opener.

It's the latest in a number of changes they have made since their season ended in the qualifiers. The back-room team has been shaken up with Michael Dempsey, Derek Lyng and James McGarry now assisting manager Brian Cody, who confirmed his return for a 16th season months earlier than usual.

After winning six All-Irelands in the previous seven years, the league champions suffered defeat to Dublin in their Leinster semi-final before finally bowing out to Cork at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage, the first time they failed to make it to the last-four stage since 1996.

However, it appears Kilkenny are determined to hit the ground running in 2014 ahead of their league opener away to All-Ireland champions Clare on February 16.

The Cats open their Leinster championship campaign with a game against Offaly in June, with the legendary Henry Shefflin expected to return to the panel in a bid to win an unprecedented 10th All-Ireland medal.

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