Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
James Crombie/INPHO
# Comment
Dublin will smell blood against Cody's vulnerable Kilkenny in Portlaoise
The Sky Blues have a golden opportunity to put one over on the Leinster and All-Ireland champions at O’Moore Park

RECENT HURLING HISTORY has taught us that hell hath no fury like a wounded Cat.

Traditionally, Brian Cody and his Kilkenny hurlers thrive on revenge missions, when their backs are against the wall and they’re deemed vulnerable.

When Kilkenny lost the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final to Galway, three years passed before the counties crossed swords again in senior championship fare.

Kilkenny dished out a merciless 4-20 to 1-10 qualifier hiding and normal service was resumed.

The 2003 All-Ireland senior hurling final was the first time that Kilkenny had met Cork in the championship since the 1999 decider and they exacted revenge then, too.

Galway were Kilkenny’s semi-final slayers again in 2005 but when they met a year later in the quarter-finals, the stripey men won by 2-22 to 3-14.

The list goes on. Cork beat Kilkenny in the 2004 All-Ireland final but two years later, the tables were turned on September’s big day.

In 2010, Tipperary denied Kilkenny the five-in-a-row but it’s been one-way traffic in championship fare since then between the neighbours.

In each season between 2011 and 2014, Kilkenny ended Tipperary’s championship interest, in the 2011 and 2014 finals, a 2012 semi-final whipping (Tipp’s biggest championship defeat since the 1800s) and a 2013 qualifier in the Nowlan Park cauldron.

Brian Cody celebrates with selector Martin Dempsey Morgan Treacy / INPHO Brian Cody and selector Mick Dempsey celebrate victory over Tipperary at Nowlan Park in 2013. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Most recently, Galway beat Kilkenny in the 2012 Leinster SHC final, drew with them in the All-Ireland final but suffered defeat in the replay.

The point being, when questions are asked of Kilkenny, they generally answer them.

Last year, they stormed to Liam MacCarthy Cup glory again despite a spate of high-profile retirements. Henry Shefflin, Tommy Walsh, JJ Delaney, Brian Hogan, Aidan Fogarty and David Herity had all exited stage left but the black and amber machine just kept on rolling.

However, as they prepare for Saturday’s Leinster SHC semi-final against Dublin, there’s a fresh feeling of vulnerability and uncertainty surrounding Kilkenny.

Richie Power’s retirement and injuries to Ger Aylward and James Maher have robbed Cody of huge attacking options while promising defender Joe Lyng is also out with a cruciate tear.

Kilkenny travel to Portlaoise without former Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan too and in their last competitive game, Cody’s men leaked 4-22 to champions Clare in the Allianz League semi-final.

Ger Aylward James Crombie / INPHO Last year's championship 'bolter' Ger Aylward is out as he continues his recovery from cruciate knee ligament damage. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

How long more can key midfielder Michael Fennelly keep putting his body through the wringer and can TJ Reid continue to pick up the attacking slack?

Former Clare manager Ger Loughnane stirred the pot when he described Kilkenny as “functional beyond belief” in an interview published in April.

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“Totally dependent on TJ Reid, one forward, and maybe Richie Hogan as well,” Loughnane added. Ouch!

Searching for motivation, Kilkenny don’t need a whole pile and while they remain favourites with the bookies to retain the All-Ireland title, at 2-1, those odds will drift either way after facing Dublin.

They’re roaring hot favourites at 10-3 on to take care of business against the Sky Blues but Dublin won’t have a better chance of getting one over on them.

In recent years, they’ve troubled Cody’s men too, winning a 2011 Allianz League final and a 2013 Leinster SHC replay.

Liam Rushe celebrates with fans after the game James Crombie / INPHO Liam Rushe celebrates with Dublin fans following the 2013 Leinster SHC semi-final replay victory over Kilkenny. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The story goes that Tipperary’s players were holed up in their Galway base waiting for confirmation that they would face Dublin in a qualifier the following weekend, when word filtered through from Portlaoise that Kilkenny were slain in Leinster and they would meet the Cats instead.

Tipp fancied their chances big-time but home advantage and a raucous home following dragged Kilkenny over the line. They were a spent force thereafter, however, as Cork knocked them out in the next round.

Kilkenny will have to wait a while before exacting championship revenge on the Rebels for that one but when they met Dublin in the 2014 Leinster final, they won by 0-24 to 1-9 and put the previous years wrongs to right.

No county has ever beaten Cody’s Kilkenny in successive championship matches and it’s a record he’s extremely proud of. You can also count the number of championship defeats suffered by Kilkenny during his reign on nine fingers.

  • 1999 All-Ireland SHC final (v Cork)
  • 2001 All-Ireland SHC semi-final (v Galway)
  • 2004 Leinster SHC semi-final (v Wexford)
  • 2004 All-Ireland SHC final (v Cork)
  • 2005 All-Ireland SHC semi-final (v Galway)
  • 2010 All-Ireland SHC final (v Tipperary)
  • 2012 Leinster SHC final (v Galway)
  • 2013 Leinster SHC (v Dublin)
  • 2013 All-Ireland SHC (v Cork)

So what’s to suggest that anything will be different in Portlaoise? It’s a hunch, nothing more, that Dublin can cause them serious problems.

Dublin’s minors have already achieved victory over Kilkenny and the Noresiders crashed out of the U21 championship with a shock defeat against Westmeath, signs that the underage conveyor belt may be slowing down.

Ger Cunningham’s Dublin enjoyed a solid League campaign but fell disappointingly at the quarter-final stage to Limerick at Parnell Park. Following a line of form, and bearing in mind that Waterford then tore Limerick apart, those results doesn’t bode well for Dublin.

Ger Cunningham Ryan Byrne / INPHO Dublin senior hurling team manager Ger Cunningham. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

But they did regroup and were impressive against an admittedly poor Wexford team stripped of key personnel. If Danny Sutcliffe was hurling for Dublin, we’d give them an even better chance against Kilkenny but they’re still in with a really good shout, if they perform, of course.

The gap between the sides has narrowed considerably through no fault of Cody’s. There’s no accounting for rank bad luck on the injury front but, not for the first time, the strength in depth of his panel will be tested to the limit. Still, these are the occasions that Kilkenny relish and he will still field a formidable team backboned by the likes of Reid, Cillian Buckley and Paul Murphy.

You just get the feeling that the starting XV revealed by Cody won’t fill Dublin with the dread of old. Either way, we suspect there won’t be too much in it but one thing’s for sure, this is a golden opportunity for Dublin.

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