Sky Sports hurling analyst Jamesie O’Connor looks ahead to the weekend’s hurling action, as the Leinster Championship comes to a head.
Kilkenny are looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Galway, but will get nothing easy in Wexford Park.
They made it difficult on themselves last Sunday, playing with 14 men for much of the second half.
The defeat was undoubtedly disappointing, but the positive is they fought to the bitter end. Brian Cody will feel that had the game continued for another minute, they could well have equalised.
I still think they’ll go to Wexford Park and get a result.
However, the big question is whether they are dependent on TJ Reid for scores.
“The performances of the Ballyhale Shamrocks star won’t have been lost on Davy Fitzgerald.”
O’Connor feels Wexford will make special provision for Reid
The last time Wexford beat Kilkenny, they put the shackles on TJ and curbed his influence. That went a long way to stopping the men in black and amber.
Walter Walsh’s return will be a boost, but the other forwards must step up. If Reid is nullified, you’d wonder where the other scores are going to come from.
Over-reliance on one player was never an issue for Kilkenny in the past. If Henry Shefflin was kept quiet, Eoin Larkin, Richie Power or Eddie Brennan could take up the mantle. But that spread of quality isn’t there anymore, and it’s a concern for the Cats.
With 5-35 in the three matches to date, Reid has scored more than any other hurler this summer.
Their backs are to the wall, they lost in the Model County two years ago, and they won’t want to lose to Davy and run the risk of an early summer exit.
After the Dublin match, many said Kilkenny are All-Ireland contenders. The Galway defeat has cast doubt on that, and they need a response on Saturday night.
It’s a big task, but I think there were enough positives from last weekend to suggest they’ll find a way to get the job done.
Dublin v Galway
Massive credit must go to Micheal Donoghue, his management team and his players for the manner in which they raised their game. They were disappointing in Salthill against Wexford. In Joe Canning’s absence, you wondered if they had the the leaders, the belief and the confidence.
They went to Carton House on their break weekend, and it must have gone well. They summoned the right response.
To go down to Nowlan Park and beat Kilkenny in a tight match like that answered all the questions.
To be honest, I didn’t see them getting a win on Nore-side. But Conor Whelan, Johnny Glynn and Cathal Mannion all stood up. The latter scoring 0-7 from play was a phenomenal return.
They’ve gone from a team that people were writing off to being genuine live contenders, and Canning is still to return.
Dublin will be aiming to make home advantage count in the narrow confines of Parnell Park, but the tight pitch won’t necessarily discommode Galway. In terms of power and strength, they’re as physically an imposing a team that’s in the championship.
But there is a lot to suggest that it’s set up for a Dublin scalp. They’ve had the week off.
Physically and emotionally, the trip to Nowlan Park will have taken a serious amount out of Galway. They’d have to have been hugely up for it. It’s not as easy to get yourself as up for a game that you’re expected to win.
In the back of their minds, do the Tribesmen feel they have already enough done to reach the All-Ireland series? They’ve got to be mindful as well, that if they lose and there’s a draw in Wexford Park, Galway will be knocked out.
Leinster Hurling Championship table
It’s unlikely that it will happen, but it could. The Tribesmen can’t entertain such a possibility. They need to take care of business and win the match.
When it comes down to it, player-for-player they’re better for Dublin and I think they’ll have enough.
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