Shefflin: Kilkenny capable of causing upset at Wexford Park
Quarter-final defeat to Wexford has primed Cody’s men for semi-final, says Shefflin
Henry Shefflin reckons Kilkenny will be a completely different proposition to what Wexford faced in early April, and injury worries aside, Brian Cody (pictured) will have done his homework this time. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Believe it or not it’s now 13 years since Wexford last took Kilkenny out of the Leinster hurling championship with the game’s most lethal weapon – the late, late match-winning goal, scored by Michael Jacob, in their 2004 semi-final at Croke Park. Where does the time go?
Anyway, since then Wexford have been increasingly reliant on that element of surprise, while Kilkenny have been on constant guard against it. Although from the outside looking in, Saturday’s semi-final might well present the reversal of that.
Because Kilkenny, it seems, may be more reliant on that element of surprise, while Wexford will be on guard against it: beating Kilkenny in the league quarter-final, and in Nowlan Park no less, for the first time since 1957, is just one thing in Wexford’s favour, plus the fact Saturday’s game is at Wexford Park.
With manager Davy Fitzgerald also in the last days of his sideline ban, the team will again have that galvanising effect, which certainly appeared to work in their quarter-final win over Laois. Doubts also remain about some of Kilkenny’s players, chiefly Pádraig Walsh, Michael Fennelly, and Ger Aylward.
Only Henry Shefflin, also now on the outside looking in, isn’t so sure: Kilkenny, he reckons, will be a completely different proposition to what Wexford faced in early April, and injury worries aside, Brian Cody will have done his homework this time.
“I actually think it’s ideally set up for Kilkenny,” said Shefflin, speaking recently in Croke Park. “That would be my take on it. That’s the way I would think, if I was playing, would be very motivated, and I think the learnings from that game. Like Shaun Murphy was so good the last day, you’d be foolish to go out and make him look very good the next day.
“I think Brian, and the Kilkenny team, go out to win every game in the league. But the level of planning and organisation that goes into that wouldn’t be at the level of the championship.
“I’d no doubt Davy Fitz had done that, for the league, because you could see the man-marking, on TJ [Reid] and Richie [Hogan]. And I don’t think Brian had anything like that done. And I think Kilkenny will have a lot more homework done.
“Down in Wexford Park is always a difficult place. That’s the one thing. If it was Nowlan Park I’d be a lot more confident, but Wexford Park is definitely difficult.”
Kilkenny’s league run, Shefflin’s also suggests, was more about finding new players: “The league, now, is very serious. Everyone wants to try to win it. Years ago, when I started first, it was about trying things. So I think Kilkenny had a lot to learn after the league, improvements to make. That could be a good thing, a bad thing, I’m not quite sure.
“I know a lot of people will probably fancy Wexford’s chances, but I think if they can get over Wexford, which I think they might, after the learning of the league quarter-final. Galway always struggle to beat Kilkenny, and next thing, lo and behold, Kilkenny are in an All-Ireland semi-final. And that’s where they want to be, because Michael, Ger, will hopefully have that time to get the rustiness out of themselves.
“It would be different in the Munster championship, which can be a minefield, but I think the lessons of the Wexford game will have them very much up for it. It is a pivotal game for Kilkenny, because lose that, you are in the back door proper. (Tipp already are). But if you win it, at least you’re in the quarter-final. If you think back to 2013, last time we went through the back door proper.”
And lost their quarter-final to Cork.