Dress rehearsal delivers fringe benefits: Murphy
BRIAN CODY faces a "good dilemma" when finalising a Kilkenny team for next Sunday's Allianz Hurling League relegation shoot-out with Clare, says Paul Murphy.
The outside presumption is that a handful of marquee names from newly-crowned All-Ireland club champions Ballyhale Shamrocks - along with, perhaps, current All Stars Cillian Buckley and Richie Hogan - will return.
But according to Murphy, several newcomers and erstwhile fringe panellists have now caused a welcome headache for management after leaving their calling cards against Clare last Sunday.
Already destined for the rarity of a Division 1A relegation play-off, Kilkenny won a tit-for-tat thriller by a solitary point. Now an instant rematch beckons - back in Nowlan Park, following yesterday's coin toss, but that's not the only reason for a sudden resurgence of Black-and-Amber confidence, coming after three straight defeats. The home crowd were even more enthused by the performance of an allegedly makeshift forward line.
After some recent cameos off the bench, Ballyragget's Kevin Kelly marked his full league debut with 1-9 - 1-2 from play, plus 0-7 from eight deadball attempts - as well as a clever assist for Jonjo Farrell's goal. Farrell (scorer of 1-2) wasn't far behind in overall contribution while Mark Kelly (0-3) made an impact both at corner-forward and later midfield.
When your starting full-forward line tallies 2-14 - more than the team's entire 1-13 total against Tipperary a week earlier - it represents a pretty prolific backlash.
"Kevin is a great hurler, I think he showed great leadership there stepping up to take the frees," said Murphy.
"Kevin is a very relaxed fella, he takes things in his stride ... himself and Jonjo Farrell really stood up and I am delighted for them as well, because there are going to be lads coming back in the next few weeks fighting for places.
"Those lads can walk away and say they had a great match and put their name up there for a jersey."
Presumably, both TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly will be joining a suddenly crowded forward line queue next Sunday, with Joey Holden and Michael Fennelly in the fray for inclusion elsewhere.
"There are going to be a few hard decisions to be made, considering the way the forwards played, the lads who came in. Look, there is no reason why those lads can't start next weekend," Murphy maintained.
As for his own spring switch to fill JJ Delaney's giant full-back boots, the three-time All Star corner-back reflected: "I knew I was going to make mistakes going in there, they are all learning curves. Some lads mightn't think going from corner-back to full-back is a big step, but it is. You have to approach it differently."