Rough weekend for the county won’t have Kilkenny down for long

Kilkenny and Ballyhale on wrong side of defeats as celebrations continue in Kilcoo

Both Kilkenny and Ballyhale Shamrocks lost in a difficult weekend for the county. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

We won’t mention any of kicking of cats now, will we? Still, it seemed the prospect of getting a fair beating spurred Kilkenny into making not one but two spirited comebacks against Tipperary in the latest instalment of hurling’s oldest rivalry.

It wasn’t enough to give Kilkenny the win, Jason Forde’s injury-time free ensuring Tipperary maintained their unbeaten start to the Allianz Hurling League, winning 1-19 to 1-18, and now sit atop Division 1B, the only team with two victories from two.

Trailing by six points at half-time, and five points midway through the second, Kilkenny at least finished out like the feisty cats of old, Walter Walsh drawing them level in the 69th with a magnificent point from the right sidelines of Semple Stadium, only to lose out in the last heat of the battle.

Coming on the back of Ballyhale Shamrocks surrendering their AIB All-Ireland club hurling title to the near miracle of the injury-time goal by Ballygunner in Croke Park Saturday, it also rounded off a low weekend for Kilkenny hurling, although they’re unlikely to be down for long. In his now 24 seasons as Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody has seen enough league defeats come and go to know they don’t always count for very much at all at all.


It may take time some time for the returning Ballyhale players to slip back into the team with renewed vigour, only for now at least Cody is content with the spirit of his team.

“Obviously we’re short various players, like the Shamrocks players, but they’ll be coming back in to us in time,” said Cody. “Look, the reality with any league is always like that, you’re looking at players, and the battle is on for players.

“The league is always about trying to strengthen your panel, they’re all good players, they wouldn’t be on the panel if they weren’t. At the end of the day it’s championship in two months time, the league is gearing towards that, and part of that is winning matches. Unfortunately that didn’t happen today.”

Colm Bonnar is in his maiden voyage as Tipperary manager, a win at home over the rival neighbours leaving him with plenty of positives, particularly with Tipperary in a sort of transition.

“These players want to show they have something to offer Tipperary. We have 33 very dedicated lads there and we’re building a team towards the championship, and it’s great to get them experience a match like that.

“They had to battle to the bitter end, and we want to have that courage. I know there were a couple of cagey times, when we were playing the ball out, but it takes a lot of bravery for a player to do that, and there were a lot of brave decisions by the players out there.”

In Sunday’s other Division 1B game, Waterford put 7-31 past Laois, who scored 0-19, wrapping up the perfect high of a weekend for Waterford hurling.

After Kilcoo’s at times equally improbable and yet similarly epic win over Kilmacud Crokes in Saturday’s AIB club football final, the homecoming to the village of 300 people in rural Down was particularly intimate.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” defender Aaron Branagan said after Saturday’s win. “It’s absolutely mad. I run the gym and people in Kilcoo are completely unwise, I am not joking you. They talk more about the football to me. Saying things like, ‘I am not going to go to class this week, just too nervous.’ Grown men telling you they hadn’t had their dinner in a few nights through nerves.

“That’s just Kilcoo, couldn’t have gone anywhere but somebody wasn’t mentioning it to you. What’s amazing about the whole thing is, in Kilcoo if you don’t play football you are a stranger in the village. I think it is brilliant. I stopped drinking a while back, because I had a goal. It can give you great purpose. It keeps you on the straight and narrow, stops boys going away to Dubai to teach or England for work.

“For a wee small rural village you put your heart and soul into it and I think for the next generation it gives them encouragement. I have a wee boy, most of the boys have wee boys, I don’t know what way it’s working, but they are all boys. This can maybe breed this on right through!”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics