Kilkenny host Limerick in Nowlan Park on Saturday evening, in a game that can’t come around quickly enough from a Kilkenny point of view. There is a buzz around the city; people are genuinely excited and looking forward to the game.
There are talks around Kilkenny that Michael Fennelly might be fit. Padraig Walsh is after a few weeks training, putting that injury behind him, so that’s another plus.
For the Cats, it’s simple on Saturday night – kill or be killed.
I think Limerick is a good draw for the Cats. The one team they wanted to avoid was Tipperary. They would have been happy to get Limerick or Waterford or the other teams.
There’s nobody going to go out there and do it for them. They need to put in the performance themselves and consign the Wexford loss to the past.
If they get a good performance, and some players get back to form, there’s no reason they can’t win. Brian Cody will need Richie Hogan and TJ Reid to play like they did last year, while a fully fit Padraig Walsh and Michael Fennelly would be huge additions.
They’re in the deep end, but there’s no better man than Cody to get the lads ready and to come out fighting.
I’d certainly give Limerick a chance. The Treaty have a proud tradition. In 2014, they were within a whisker of beating us in an All-Ireland semi-final.
Looking at the starting team, John Kiely has left out a lot of experienced players – Gavin O’Mahony is on the bench, along with the captain James Ryan.
Maybe he’s looking at staying with Kilkenny for 35/40 minutes and then springing those lads, who will bring fresh legs and a bit of experience.
To have any chance, they’ll need to start well and take the game to Kilkenny.
Playing the game in Nowlan Park is not a massive advantage to Kilkenny, but it is an advantage nonetheless. I’d be more confident in Nowlan Park than going down to the Gaelic Grounds. The lads will be delighted if a big crowd turn up and get behind the team. I’ve no doubt that will happen, as the Kilkenny supporters stick with them through thick and thin.
I think the Cats will win. If Michael Fennelly is playing, I think that could be the winning of the game.
I do expect a close game. The bookmakers have Kilkenny as heavy favourites. I don’t think it will be as easy as they are predicting but I do expect the Cats to win by three or four.
Make sure to check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, as we hear from Richie Hogan ahead of Kilkenny vs Limerick.