Spring isn’t the most exhilarating of seasons so is it any surprise that hurling fans can often work themselves up into a frenzy when anything remotely interesting happens during this time of year.
February was quite extraordinary in that we’ve taken in the scenes we usually associate with Championship during the League. We’ve had to consciously remind ourselves that the big time and the major prizes are still a long way off. It may be the shortest month of the year but it was an interesting one and has certainly provided food for thought.
For Wexford fans, it now feels like Phase 1 of the Davy Fitzgerald takeover is 99.9% complete with promotion looking extremely likely. Dancing at the Crossroads playing on the speakers in Wexford Park after the win over Limerick, a pitch invasion and autographs galore after they overcame Galway in Salthill are all adding to the hysteria that surrounds the Model County, and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement.
Davy is telling their enlivened supporters to “chill the beans” but to quote an iconic news anchor it’s “kind of a big deal” if they can finally make the step up to 1A after all this time playing in the lower grade.
If this is as good as it gets all year, most Wexford people will consider this quite a significant stepping stone. Is it any wonder the purple & gold brigade are starry-eyed at the moment?
The Yellowbellies are full of the joys of spring but not so in the case for neighbours, Kilkenny, whose league campaign has suddenly gone off script.
They’ve had two losses on the trot including a hammering at the hands of Clare that no one had predicted. They are being heavily criticised, many saying these are the first signs that the invasion of previously undisturbed territory is now well underway.
This is a team that has won 11 of the last 18 All-Ireland titles but little by little, over the last few seasons they have lost some of the most iconic players to have ever worn the Black and Amber; Henry Shefflin, JJ Delaney, Richie Power and most recently Jackie Tyrell to name but a few.
Only now are we truly seeing the repercussions of those departures. It’s difficult enough take control of any dressing room when a number of leaders have left but how do you go about motivating lads who already have five, six or in some cases seven All-Ireland medals to go out and fight like dogs for another?
There’s no question that big challenges lie ahead for the Cats but maybe those declaring the prophecy that the fall of this empire is imminent are doing Kilkenny a favour. Brian Cody won’t be quivering in his boots any time soon. By his reckoning if they’re going to make mistakes, February isn’t the worst time to be falling off the horse.
And so we begin March with excitement and anticipation for what will come next. Have the stars really aligned for Wexford, are Kilkenny really in crisis or are we all just in a hazy daydream, creating excitement for ourselves as we await summer?
Whatever the case may be, given the month we’ve had, we can’t wait to see what the rest of the year may have in store.
Sinéad Kehoe, Pundit Arena