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Thursday 22 August 2019

Cody on guard against 'seriously good' Carlow

Kilkenny’s Brian Cody
Kilkenny’s Brian Cody

Brian Cody was singing the praises of those unheralded Carlow hurlers seven days ago. Cue the cynical retort: he would say that, wouldn't he, with a trip to Barrowside next on the agenda?

Except that Carlow went out the following afternoon and ran Galway to six points on their own Salthill patch. They even had the temerity to make it a three-point game having trailed by nine early in the second half.

Coming after their league stalemate with Galway in February, and their top-flight survival a month later, last Sunday reinforced the sense of a Carlow team played to its ultimate under Colm Bonnar.

So maybe Cody's depiction of Carlow as a "top team" should be taken at face value. "I would know a lot of their players," he added. "They mightn't be well known nationally because they haven't been competing at this level until this year, but I know the quality they have and they really are seriously good players."

By now, no one can doubt the seriously good pedigree of Marty Kavanagh and Chris Nolan.

In March, this observer witnessed a spectacular relegation play-off comeback from Carlow, who played for an hour with 14 men, trailed Offaly by 11 at the break but then, playing with a gale but also a ferocious lust for survival, battled back to victory.

Kavanagh shot 0-8 (4f) in Tullamore on that windswept day; Nolan tallied 1-4 from play. They were pivotal to almost everything good about Carlow.

Last Sunday, they couldn't quite forge a far more famous triumph - but Kavanagh top-scored with 0-11 (6f) in a man-of-the-match performance while Nolan chipped in with 1-2.

Afterwards Bonnar remarked: "We don't know where the ceiling with this team is. We can't be one-hit wonders in terms of putting up a performance. We really want to make a mark ... there's more in us."

For all that, it would constitute one of the biggest shocks in modern hurling history if that "more in us" translated into a famous win over 1/50 favourites. Yes, Carlow are at home; yes, they bring momentum from that second half in Galway; and yes, unlike the Kilkenny of ten years ago, this current model has frailties like everyone else.

Propel

But last Saturday's second half against Dublin showcased some familiar traits that will surely propel Kilkenny back into the All-Ireland series, whatever about a Leinster final.

Few counties are better at finding a way in adversity. Soaring second half intensity was part of it; but switches played a key role too. The relocation of Pádraig Walsh to centre-back, Huw Lawlor to full-back and the introduction of Richie Leahy at midfield provided a far more convincing template.

Dublin were corralled into a discomfort zone, cajoled into going more direct. Thus, they literally played into Kilkenny hands. Their attack withered on the vine. Then TJ Reid did what TJ does best at the other end.

All of which suggests that Kilkenny will have too much for Carlow's defiant trailblazers ...

ODDS: Carlow 11/1 Draw 33/1 Kilkenny 1/50

VERDICT: Kilkenny

LEINSTER SHC

Carlow v Kilkenny

(Netwatch Cullen Pk, Tom 3.0)

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