Out of the four top flight hurling games this weekend, the fixture between Kilkenny and Offaly is seen as the easiest to predict, with the Cats winning this one with relative ease.
What: Leinster Hurling Championship
Who: Kilkenny vs Offaly
Where: Nowlan Park, Kilkenny.
When: Sunday 20th May. Throw in is at 3pm.
Odds: Kilkenny 1/50, Draw 25/1, Offaly 12/1
Kilkenny produced a smash-and-grab performance last week, denying the Dubs a famous win with a controversial added time goal from Liam Blanchfield. Brian Cody would not have been happy with the collective performance of his starting fifteen, which was reflected by the introduction of Colin Fennelly before the break.
Fennelly, Paul Murphy, Conor Fogarty and Blanchfield all made a significant difference when introduced and it’s expected that some, if not all, of the aforementioned will start Sunday.
The scoreline may not have reflected it but Offaly gave the All Ireland champions as good as they got for large portions of last week’s encounter, trailing by a single point before Joseph Cooney goaled in first-half injury-time.
Kevin Martin will see this Sunday’s game as a good opportunity to build on that performance and once again mix it with the big boys. Eoghan Cahill was superb in goal last week in his personal duel with Joe Canning, and he may have to produce a similar performance this time out for Offaly to hold out any hope of a victory.
The Faithful County in Shane Dooley, Dan Currams and Joe Bergin have the forward line to cause an unsettled full-back line problems as Liam Rushe, Conal Keaney and Danny Sutcliffe did last Sunday, winning the vast amount of ball that came their way.
Despite the overall performance of the Cats last time, they showed the character and determination of true champions, which embodies Cody’s time in charge. Expect the team to change dramatically this week and an improved performance from the league champions.
There is no doubt a mini revolution is taking place in Offaly, and they will take huge confidence in the ease with which the Kilkenny defensc was torn open by the Dubs last week.
Kevin Martin’s side may adopt a similar game plan to Pat Gilroy’s charges, hitting Joe Bergin and Shane Dooley as quick and as often as possible. Even though he is unlikely to admit it, Kevin Martin would be happy if Offaly produced a competitive performance as they build towards a season-defining relegation battle with Dublin.
Regardless of the fantastic work taking place within the county, there is a long way to go before they are in a position to beat one of hurling’s elite.
Verdict: Kilkenny. With ease.