Kilkenny have named an unchanged team for Saturday's replay against Waterford in Thurles. This was unexpected in that former Hurler of the Year Eoin Larkin made a significant impact when introduced at half-time but Jonjo Farrell gets the nod to continue at corner forward.
It could be that manager Brian Cody intends to make changes before the match starts but that would be unusual, as the sides he releases generally play as selected – the one exception in recent years being the 2014 Leinster semi-final replay against Galway. Of the four changes made that day one was particularly significant, as that day was the first championship outing of Conor Fogarty, up until then mostly a corner back, at centrefield – a position in which he has excelled.
The only other change made in last Sunday’s draw also involved Fogarty. After the introduction of
, he dropped to centre back to replace
who had been experiencing a torrid time on Waterford’s Austin Gleeson. It was from the number six position that Fogarty launched the late equaliser that tied up the match.
It’s all of 11 years since Kilkenny last lost an All-Ireland semi-final, against Galway by 4-18 to 5-18. Since that day in August 2005 Brian Cody’s team have played 52 championship matches and lost just four of them: against Tipperary in the 2010 All-Ireland final, Galway in the 2012 Leinster final, Dublin a year later in the provincial semi-final replay and later that summer against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
One of the most impressive aspects of Waterford’s display was the manner in which they resisted the traditional Kilkenny full-court press in the third quarter and second half. Of the 52 championship matches played since 2005 Kilkenny have been outscored in the second half only seven times.
Waterford have during this period traditionally been the most competitive of opponents after the break. Since the traumatic 2008 All-Ireland final, won by Kilkenny by 23 points, Waterford have played five matches – four All-Ireland semi-finals and one qualifier – and on two occasions have outscored Kilkenny in the second half. On another two they have equalled their opponents’ total and last week they lost it by just a point.
On just nine occasions Kilkenny have been in arrears going in for the break. The county went from the beginning of the 2006 season all the way up until the 2010 All-Ireland final before trailing at half-time. Interestingly, all four of the champions’ defeats have come in matches when they were behind at this stage.
Since that most recent defeat, against Cork three years ago, the rate of this occurrence has increased. Up until 2014 the only times that Kilkenny trailed in a match at half-time were the four matches they lost. But in the meantime the county have played 14 matches and trailed at the interval in five of them, which has made the team’s ability to finish strongly an important weapon in their remaining unbeaten.
Elsewhere, former Mayo manager James Horan has declined an offer to take over the reins of the Cavan footballers in the wake of Terry Hyland's stepping down last week.
Speaking to the Anglo Celt, he said: "When you see any job coming up you'd always look at it but I don't know how practical it would be from where I am. It'd be an inviting job for someone obviously . . .but I don't think it's practical . ."