The Cats won’t die easily but odds favour Limerick remaining top dogs

Inside Track with John McIntyre

NOT since 1898 – now that’s a while back – have Kilkenny been beaten in four consecutive All-Ireland hurling finals, but a potential repeat of that scenario will stalk the county ahead of squaring up to champions Limerick in Sunday’s showdown at Croke Park in a repeat of last year’s decider.

Having lost heavily to Tipperary in the finals of 2016 and ’19, the Cats also came up short against Limerick 12 months ago. It means there will be extra pressure on Kilkenny to halt a bad run of results on hurling’s biggest occasion, but few think they can do it against the sport’s dominance force.

Still, you have got to give Kilkenny enormous credit for hauling themselves back into another final at a time when they are surprisingly not rated that highly and are under a new manager in former midfielder Derek Lyng. Getting the best out of themselves has never been an issue for the Noresiders.

After their league final thumping (2-20 to 0-15) by Limerick last April, few neutrals imagined that Kilkenny would end up as the team standing in Limerick’s way of completing the four-in-a-row. That view would only have been strengthened when losing a high scoring provincial championship round-robin tie to a modest Wexford outfit.

They were better against Galway in the Leinster final but looked destined for defeat when two points adrift deep into stoppage time only for substitute Cillian Buckley to drive a dagger through the Tribesmen’s hearts. It was typical Kilkenny; they keep going to the end and don’t know when to give up.

Those qualities were also needed in the All-Ireland semi-final. Coming up a Clare team which was generally rated the second best in the country, Kilkenny again found a way to carry the day. Richie Reid and Adrian Mullen had both missed the Galway game, and their return to the frontline was important.

A man-of-the-match display from team captain Eoin Cody, however, proved their trump card, but Clare were left regretting adopting an alien sweeper system in the first half. Unlike the previous year, Brian Lohan was determined that his team would still be in the game at half-time. It was a gamble – the latest by this Clare management – which didn’t come off.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.



For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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