There is a more buzz than usual around Kilkenny surrounding for the first round of the championship. All the tickets are sold out and there is still people looking for to get their hands on them.
Everyone is going down to Wexford Park more in hope than of what they are going to see rather than confidence.
Padraig Walsh will be a huge loss for Kilkenny – he is one of the outstanding players of the last couple of years. Brian Cody had trusted him going back into full-back. It’s probably not his best position but he trusted him to go back so now he has to fit in a new full-back and probably a new half-back as well.
He is so dominant in the air he is possibly the biggest loss Kilkenny could have.
You’ll now have somebody coming in at full-back who probably hasn’t played there this year. Rumour has it that Kieran Joyce is after stepping up to the plate so we’ll have to see how himself and Conor McDonald shape up with each other.
Wexford people are more confidant than there were this time 12 months ago. Davy has instilled a belief in them and if they can get over Kilkenny tonight, there are straight into an All-Ireland quarter-final no matter what happens. It will be a good year for them if they can win this game.
Davy will have a trick up his sleeve – there is nothing surer than that. He will possibly set up with the sweeper again and try and stem Kilkenny for the first 20 minutes and then push on as they did in Nowlan Park.
Liam Og McGovern is out for Wexford and this has people questioning whether they have the strength in depth to cope with such a loss. There is no better time than a Leinster semi-final to test the strength of your squad.
But teams have to cope with injuries. Liam Og is a loss, but so is Padraig Walsh. There are talks that Richie Hogan is a doubt – which is why Kilkenny have delayed naming their team for the game.
If Hogan does miss out, it could tilt things in Wexford’s favour.
However, Brian Cody should have Michael Fennelly back in the side around the middle of the field. I played against him in a club game recently and, while he was only supposed to play 20 minutes, he played for the full hour. The longer the game went on, the better he got. He has an hour of club hurling behind him and I’m sure he’s had good training sessions done so, bar any set-backs, you would expect him to come into the middle of the field.
Ger Aylward is very close to being back as well, whether he makes the starting 15 or not is another thing but he would certainly be very good sub to bring on with 20 minutes to go.
It’s make or break time for Kilkenny. With the way things are going, they really need to get into a Leinster final and guarantee that All-Ireland quarter-final spot. If they have to go through the qualifiers, it won’t suit the likes of Michael Fennelly, he’ll need time to recover in between games.
Ger Aylward too, is only coming back from injury, Padraig Walsh will becoming back and Richie Hogan is struggling with his back so the front door is the best route for Brian Cody and his squad.
Kilkenny’s season hinges on tonight – they will want a result rather than a performance.