The All Ireland replay takes place this Saturday, and Brian Barry believes Kilkenny have a lot of work to do if they are to prevent Tipperary running up another massive scoring tally.
1-28. It was a massive score to concede in an All Ireland final for Kilkenny. While their forwards did the business at the other end to ensure they live to fight another day, there are question marks surrounding the the Kilkenny defensive unit.
The Premier forwards were nothing short of awesome in the drawn game. The six starters knocked over a combined 1-20 from play. The only criticism was their inability to find the net at crucial times, although cynical fouls by the Cats played no small role in this. When these six men click, they are un-hurlable.
Séamus Callanan, Lar Corbett, and Noel McGrath were lethal inside, while John O’Dwyer and Patrick Maher caused havoc out the field. In truth, it was only Gearóid Ryan who did not perform to the best of his ability.
Conversely, Gearóid Ryan was kept quiet throughout due to the presence of Cillian Buckley. Replaced on 49 minutes after scoring just one point, Ryan was completely outplayed. Buckley, on the other hand, was immense, winning the majority oF 50-50 balls in style. Ryan was called ashore after 49 minutes, to facilitate Michael Cahill entering the fray to stem the threat of Richie Hogan, but the domination by Buckley was the swaying factor in Eamonn Shea’s mind that Ryan was the one to go.
Bonner Maher kept up his scintillating form in the first half, at a tempo with which Brian Hogan could not live with. At the same time, Corbett was having a hard time of it on Paul Murphy. After Maher had scored his goal, he ran into the danger zone once more, but was dragged down for a penalty. Brian Cody had seen the warning signs, and moved Murphy out on the Lorrha man.
This promptly put an end to the Bonner’s dominance, but suddenly it was Corbett punching holes. Were it not for the post, the 2010 Hurler of the Year would have been the hero again. One major talking point arises: where will Cody deploy Murphy on Saturday? One stopper cannot plug six holes. The manager must decide which of those holes is shipping the most water.
While Murphy and Buckley won their personal duels, the rest of the Kilkenny safeguard struggled throughout. Question marks surrounded Hogan at centre-back, and he was badly exposed by Patrick Maher. However, few expected JJ Delaney to be routed to such a degree. The 2003 Hurler of the Year owes Kilkenny nothing, but looked slow as Callanan ran riot.
It was sad to see one of the greatest defenders of all time struggle on the biggest stage, but all things must come to an end. With compatriot Tommy Walsh consigned to the bench, Delaney looked helpless against the younger Tipperary forward line. As Jackie Tyrell also resembled a shadow of his former glories, Kilkenny are in trouble, not only on Saturday, but in the coming seasons. There will be big voids to be filled at both centre-back and full-back in the coming years.
With Saturday’s All Ireland replay approaching fast, do not be surprised if Brian Cody brings in fresh faces to paper over their defensive cracks. Joey Holden, Paul Murphy, and Cillian Buckley are three who merit their place in the replay. Eamonn O’Shea will be quietly confident Tipp can run up a big scoreline again.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.