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Eoin Larkin Column: Lean Years Could Be In Store For Kilkenny

Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Wexford Park, County Wexford 10/6/2017 Wexford vs Kilkenny Kilkenny manager Brian Cody Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

As a Kilkenny man, I am disappointed with what I saw on Saturday evening.

I said before the game that Kilkenny needed a result more than a performance – and we got neither.

They didn’t deserve to win – Wexford out-worked Kilkenny, they out-fought them, there was no performance at all from Brian Cody’s side.

They got off to the perfect start with the penalty. It was great play from Colin Fennelly and TJ Reid stuck the penalty expertly. However, TJ missed some easy frees which lifted the home crowd at Wexford Park.

Despite the early goal, Kilkenny were flat and Wexford responded with five points in a row. Davy’s men were the better side all over the field and dominated the physical battle.

They stood up to the plate and were counted – they were the hungrier team throughout the full 70 minutes.

Kilkenny hit five wides in the opening 15 minutes as they failed to get a grip on the game. They are so experienced that the atmosphere at a packed Wexford Park shouldn’t have made any difference. These lads have played in All-Ireland finals so the big occasion shouldn’t have got to them.

Wexford , Ireland - 10 June 2017; The Wexford manager Saoirse Bulfin is congratulated by Kilkenny manager Brian Cody after the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Wexford and Kilkenny at Wexford Park in Wexford. (Photo By Ray McManus/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

I thought taking off Ger Aylward was a mistake. Yes, he missed a few chances, hit a few wides, but as the game wore on, he would have got more into it.

You also have to question whether Padraig Walsh was fit to play. He had little or no hurling done in the last six weeks so he couldn’t have been at the pace required.

Then Michael Fennelly wasn’t named in the 26-man match-day panel. He must have had an injury set-back as when I played against him in a club game recently, he only got stronger as the game went on. If Padraig Walsh with no hurling was in the squad, and in the starting 15, why not Fennelly?

Making two changes so early on upset the rhythm of the team. It didn’t help that the lads who came in failed to make an impact. There were a few goal chances that Kilkenny failed to take – if Aylward was still on the field, would it have been different?

You have to question this substitution: why not give him 40 minutes at least?

Where Kilkenny go from here is the other thing you have to look at after this defeat. We will be watching out for the qualifier draw. It is worrying getting beaten by Wexford in such a limp performance. Will they re-group? If they get a tough draw it’s hard to see them recovering. It’s certainly hard to see them beating any of the Munster teams. Not with the lack of strength-in-depth we saw on Saturday night.

On that display we could be getting used to the qualifiers as there could be a lean spell in the Leinster Championship over the next few years.

That said, I don’t want to take anything away from Wexford. To give Davy his due, he got the match-ups right and he got the game-plan spot on. Their support play was excellent too, they always had somebody looking for the ball. Although Conor McDonald was quiet, I thought Lee Chin was outstanding.

Colin Fennelly was the only Kilkenny player to play well, but, in fairness to Liam Ryan, he didn’t have a bad game marking him.

Wexford won’t fear Galway or Offaly. They will be looking towards winning a Leinster title now. They are only getting better and are certainly in a good place heading into a Leinster final.

Wexford , Ireland - 10 June 2017; Paul Morris of Wexford celebrates at the end of the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Wexford and Kilkenny at Wexford Park in Wexford. (Photo By Daire Brennan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

If they can keep their feet on the ground, they have a great chance.

For Kilkenny, they will have to have a good, long chat with themselves and try to get the hunger back.

They haven’t too long to get go until the All-Ireland qualifiers, but something drastic has to change. Kilkenny need a better effort from the likes of Walter Walsh, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid.

This is a challenge for Brian Cody as Kilkenny are in big trouble unless something is done. And fast.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.