Kilkenny mean business
LEINSTER U21 HURLING FINAL: OFFALY WERE many people's favourites to make the All-Ireland stages this year, that is, until Kilkenny got hold of a Dublin team containing eight senior players and shook them around like a rag doll.
That Richie Hogan and TJ Reid are the only players in with a shout of promotion to the senior ranks, and that would require a few injuries, means Kilkenny have enjoyed several weeks of uninterrupted preparation.
Conor Mahon, Joe Bergin, Derek Molloy and Daniel Currams all featured for the senior Offaly side in last weekend's defeat to Waterford so their best scorers may suffer from heavy legs as matters develop tonight.
Diarmuid Horan, son of manager Pádraig, has recovered from an ankle injury to join Mahon in midfield. There is one change from the side that beat Wexford with Currams rewarded for his three points off the bench by replacing John Gorman at left half forward.
Molloy and Bergin are capable of punishing any team, at underage or senior, but the hunger displayed by Kilkenny in the semi-final crushing of Dublin was most revealing. Hogan was sensational, finishing up with 1-10, while his brother Paddy also excelled at centre back. TJ Reid never registered so much as a point to Kilkenny's 1-20 total. Such was the supporting cast's enthusiasm that night in Parnell Park, mainly Colin Fennelly and Nicky Cleere, they never required Reid to wake from his slumber.
Kilkenny lost to Offaly at the semi-final stage last season, having procured four under-21 titles in a row up to 2007. They want their provincial crown back before a push for the All-Ireland and, for some of them, eventual progression to the senior ranks.
Kilkenny hurling finds itself in a golden era. Tonight should provide further confirmation.
KILKENNY:C McGrath; P Murphy, K Joyce, E O'Shea; N Prendergast, P Hogan, L Ryan; J Dowling, N Walsh; C Fennelly, N Cleere, TJ Reid; M Ruth, J Mulhall, R Hogan.
OFFALY:J Dempsey; C Hernon, B Watkins, S Wynne; J Treacy, B Leonard, D Morkan; C Mahon, D Horan; D Molloy, C Egan D Currams; C Coghlan, J Bergin, F Kerrigan.
Referee:A Stapleton (Laois)
Offaly v Kilkenny