ALL-IRELAND SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: A Treaty-bridge too far
By COLIN BARTLEY
IT’S not often Kilkenny travel to Croke Park in trepidation, and Brian Cody is too wily an old cat to allow that happen this team.
The Kilkenny manager has little influence over the support, and the word jumping out at me is trepidation.
Cody’s treated Cat supporters to some of the toughest, most tenacious, focused hurling the sport has ever seen. He has shaped teams on work ethic, expression of the individual, of unbending trust in your teammates.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery after all, and this Limerick team does what the great Kilkenny team did, and does it well.
They hunt so ferociously in between the 65’s I hear they have printed P45s for every half-forward in the game, so redundant do they make them.
They trust their inside forwards to keep the umpires busy and if a team decides to shut them down inside by making the 21 yard-line busier than a betting ring at Ballybrit after the lads got a tip on good thing from Bolger’s yard, they have the players with the accuracy and confidence enough to take on long-range scores.
Limerick has a goal threat too, in fact, the names Gillane and Morrisey, Kyle Hayes, Cian Lynch, Dec Hannon, Gearoid Hegarty are fast becoming household names. Fast in the respect that this time last year they were hardly names tripping of the tongue.
How do you defeat what is as near a mirror image currently, of the best team ever?
Well Kilkenny beat Cork you may say, and Cork has Limerick’s number. That may be true, but that number is 14, Patrick Horgan.
Only TJ and Seamie Callanan come close to matching Horgan’s impact on games currently.
Maybe the key isn’t Horgan’s scoring, but his physicality. Horgan isn’t particularly tall. He’s strong!
And it looks like that is what Brian Cody is thinking recalling Walter Walsh, who was impressive when he came on against Cork.
Five of Kilkenny’s six starting forwards are six-feet and over, the other is the feral Richie Hogan. So Cody wants to bring the battle to the heart of Limerick’s defence, lay siege to it and see how the Treatymen fare.
Against Cork, Cody showed he’s willing to change things up to get the Cats over the line. He made tactical switches and early substitutions, and I believe he will repeat the trick this evening.
His bench is stacked with agile, quick forwards in the two Billy’s, Sheehan and Ryan. In Liam Blanchfield and Ger Aylward, he has size and speed.
It may be that Cody will specifically request his starters battle the Limerick defence for every last scrap of leather. After a 45-minute war, Limerick will face another task, changing size for speed.
Apart from that round-robin game against Tipp, Limerick look very comfortable in everything they do, so the key to beating Limerick is knocking them out of that comfort zone.
Kilkenny came close last year to doing just that in the quarter-final but didn’t. Limerick has a swagger now.
It can be done – but it will be very difficult. To me, it looks like a Limerick win, but I hope I’m wrong.