The second round of games in the NHL 1A are now in the books. A weekend which saw Waterford continue their impressive start to the league campaign, Dublin rebounding superbly to defeat an inconsistent Galway outfit and Kilkenny with several new emerging stars closing out a game which Tipperary will reflect got away yet again.
Deise too strong for Cork
The scoreline of 0-20 to 1-14 on first viewing looks like a tight encounter but Waterford were more comfortable in long periods of this game than the scoreline suggested. Physically dominant in most central battles, the Deise inside full forward line caused numerous problems for an overworked, overstretched Cork full back line throughout who were forced to concede numerous close range frees where the likes of Dunford, Curran and Jake Dillon catching the eye.
Waterford had several positives from the game as five of their starting forwards registered scores, their half-back line was aerially dominant throughout. The negative will be the dismissal of Maurice Shanahan, a late strike off the ball with five minutes remaining. It was a poor decision from Shanahan and one that suddenly forced Waterford on the back foot with a late Cork surge. Waterford push on to four points, no relegation fears and they will relish a tussle with Tipperary in two weeks time.
Cork now prop up the league table and on the basis of this performance could struggle to stay in the division. There is no denying the fact that Cork have several superb hurling talents. Aidan Walsh, Pa Horgan and Conor Lehane at times showed their brilliance but there is a brittleness about Cork defensively which will cause Cork management endless sleepless nights. The full back line was exposed in pace and loose passing from the back was latched among by a Waterford team whose work rate was superior on the night.
Cork will look to the late flourish where Pa Horgan scored a late goal to setup a potentially dramatic finish but those hopes evaporated immediately when Alan Cadogan was sent off for a wild pull in the Waterford goal line. Cork’s central positions need to be reviewed. Is their talent in the county to fill the gaps? The lack of work rate without the ball at times left a lot to be desired. Worrying times in Cork hurling.
Kilkenny new guns put Tipperary to the sword
With the season ending injury of Ger Alyward and the retirement of the mercurial talent from intercounty hurling of Richie Power, some believed that Kilkenny were vulnerable this season but this was emphatically put to bed today as Kilkenny showed Tipperary yet again how to close out a contest with a late 2-1 salvo to secure their first league win of the season.
Brian Cody and Kilkenny management were conscious that a second defeat in the league would mean a certain relegation battle like last season. Kilkenny will be the first to admit that ring rust was hugely evident in their opening day league loss to Waterford last weekend.
Kilkenny playing against a strong breeze in the opening period made a much improved start and with TJ Reid continuing to tick the scoreboard over with points from placed balls, Tipperary were left to rue several gilt edged chances to be only one point up at the interval.
Tipperary should have being further in-front. John McGrath had a great goal chance which went over the bar and several poor shot selections resulted in Tipperary showing little for their efforts. Michael Ryan’s charges did hit the first two points of the start of the second half but with a stiffening breeze against them, it looked a forlorn task to hold on against a Kilkenny team whose new players were now relishing their tussle with their next door county neighbors.
Kilkenny had several positives. Eoin Murphy in goal provided confidence and when called upon dealt with all Tipperary could throw at him. Prendergast at corner-back had a powerful game, the fringe player surely is staking a serious claim for first team action. His no nonsense approach, physically strong and direct approach was what Kilkenny required defensively. Lennon at centre back was strong and grew into the game making several lung bursting runs from deep. Conor Fogarty’s work rate is infectious and his second half display closing out Tipperary attacking ball supply was crucial in the last ten minutes of this contest.
The stars of the show for Kilkenny were newcomers Kevin Kelly and James Maher whose unselfish pass to Kelly for Kilkenny’s first goal with eight minutes left will have pleased Brian Cody. James Maher’s four points were inspirational for Kilkenny at various stages of the contest when Tipperary looked to be taking a firm grip on proceedings. Kevin Kelly’s eye for goal was highlighted at the end of the contest when presented with a 1-1 chance buried the ball emphatically into the back of the net.
Kilkenny smelled blood, they go for the kill something that Tipperary again were exposed of today. The Tipperary work rate was extremely high but were let down by sloppy passing from the back line and the concession of easy frees in their midfield and half-back line areas. Padraic Maher saw the ire of Tipperary management and was hauled off after a sloppy pass was intercepted and scored by Walter Walsh and then a late challenge conceded an easy score for TJ Reid from the placed ball. James Barry was excellent at center back and is surely a lock for the position come the Summer.
Kilkenny will be pleased with the result but more so of how the new players in the panel adapted to the contest when the questions were asked by Tipperary.
The match officiating on show left a lot to be desired; both teams will be in rueful mood on some of the decisions given against. Ripping a face guard off a player is not deemed a card offense (Noel McGrath’s helmet hauled off by Lester Ryan in the second half). Conor Fogarty was unlucky to be pinged for what looked a fair shoulder on Bonnar Maher deep in the contest. Decisions like this drive intercounty managers potty. A good contest despite the brutal conditions. Kilkenny are as strong as ever and the rest of competition are fully aware of the task that lies await in the summer.
Dublin profit from inconsistent Galway display
Parnell Park is not a happy hunting ground for Galway hurlers; their performance yesterday evening fell well short of posing any serious threat to a Dublin team whose victory was set by the return of the likes of Liam Rushe.
The weather conditions were not ideal and Galway were extremely wasteful in the early stages. David Treacy was the star of the show for Dublin who scored 0-10 and his overall play setup several other scores. Rushe’s cameo cannot be underestimated. The Round Towers dominated this contest and his performance from the half-back line gave his forward line endless scoring opportunities.
As mentioned in my preview last week, Galway’s main focus is their consistency in delivering quality performances game after game. Several worrying signs were the withdrawal of Fergal Moore (injury) and Joe Canning at the break. Galway played with little fluency as Dublin continued to harry and pressure Galway without the ball in contrast to last weekend when Galway had ample time to pick out a colleague in space.
Dublin’s dominance in the second half was emphatic and when McGrath scored Dublin’s goal after forty-six minutes, the game was put to bed. Galway must learn from this setback, the team struggled to cope with Dublin’s work rate and direct approach. The withdrawal of Joe Canning is a massive negative. Is management sending a message to Canning?
Dublin will be relieved with their first win of the campaign. The work rate and physicality is paramount for Dublin this season and whether they have the forward nous remains to be seen even though their performance last night was effective. Without Danny Sutcliffe, David Treacy is now the go to player in the Dublin forward line.