Hell hath no fury like a beaten Kilkenny team under Brian Cody, the history books would suggest.
That defending League and Munster champions Tipperary provide next Sunday’s opposition in the wake of the Cats’ reversal at Walsh Park couldn’t be timelier.
The Kilkenny manager will, as is his imperious, magnificent wont, demand a win on home soil against the team identified by most GAA commentators as the likeliest contenders to their crown in ’09.
A year wiser, Tipp boss Liam Sheedy will know only too well there’s little to be gained from the Premier pouring hurling’s finest champagne before the stretch in the evening truly kicks in.
But the implications of victory next Sunday shall not be lost on him either. Tipperary have emerged victorious from both of their last two visits to Nowlan Park and go into Sunday’s fixture as Division One leaders.
A win would not only lay down a significant marker for the summer’s action, it would also leave Cody’s men facing a very tricky path when it comes to securing a top two finish.
In the excellent ‘Westside’ column on Tipperary’s GAA website, the columnist refers to his county’s fine league record against the Cats – 28 wins, six draws and 23 defeats to date.
Declan Fanning looks back to his best having resumed tenancy of the full-back slot, with Conor O’Mahony at centre-back looking just as assured a defensive presence for the Premier.
With Eoin Kelly still out due to back problems and Hugh Maloney and Willie Ryan also unavailable due to injury, Sheedy will have some juggling to do next weekend, but he’s not without his options.
But he’ll need big displays once again from Fanning and O’Mahony and will hope that Lar Corbett’s fire will be fully ignited against the black and ambered backs.
Paul Kelly, who now wears the club colours of O’Loughlin Gaels, has shown flashes of his undisputed talent during the campaign but will once again aim to impress the Tipp selectors next weekend.
As for Kilkenny? With seven players fresh from the trip to Abu Dhabi where they helped Leinster take the Interprovincial title last Saturday, Cody’s selection should also be bolstered by the return of the Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent.
The effort of the Kilkenny men in the Middle East demonstrated that their “desire for any level of hurling was once again reflected by the intensity of their play even in the sweltering conditions,” wrote Colm Keys on Monday.
Taking both the Waterford defeat and Ballyhale’s loss to Portumna in the club semi-final into account, there’ll be quite a few burned Kilkenny men taking to the sod next Sunday.
Kilkenny, humorously described by local broadcaster Barry Henriques as “favourites to win everything this year except the Rose of Tralee”, will not want to concede further ground in the chase for NHL honours.
Taking the recent history of his fixture into account, the defeat to Waterford and the Shamrocks’ loss to Portumna, Kilkenny, oddly, will feel they have a point to prove at Nowlan Park this Sunday.
Brian Cody will demand a victory and one suspects the All-Ireland champions will just edge out Tipperary, who, even should they lose this weekend, will still fancy their chances of reaching the final.
* The AGM of Kilkenny Supporters Club will be held this Thursday night, March 19th at Nowlan Park and is scheduled for an 8pm start. All new members and supporters are welcome.