Kilkenny team to
Retirements won't compromise class
KILKENNY v WEXFORD
(Nowlan Park, Tomorrow, 2.0
IF there's a sense that Wexford have been building towards this moment for some time now, there also exists stronger appreciation that Kilkenny don't often (ever?) play the support role in those sort of coming-of-age narratives.
Wexford are good - very good - and getting better but Kilkenny, for all the wisdom and talent lost by their recent exodus, are All-Ireland champions.
Aren't they always?
Yet for some reason, perhaps entwined in the number and identity of retirees since Liam MacCarthy was raised by Lester Ryan last September, Kilkenny enter this summer not as All-Ireland favourites.
Yes, they played in the relegation final of the League, not a very regular Kilkenny spring past time but mostly, it's down to the panel defections.
For our money, that missing cabal and the draining effect their decamping is expected to have on Kilkenny's overall efficiency is overplayed, and here's why.
Firstly, Brian Cody doesn't seem the type of manager to sub-let much of the managerial work to players, experienced and bejewelled with medals though they most certainly were, so the dressing-room/training field vacuum created by their departures may not be as pronounced as expected.
And secondly, with regard to playing-spefics, just what has Cody to replace?
It's been said plenty of times but now, on the eve of their opening Championship match of 2015 maybe it needs to be stated again.
By the time of last year's All-Ireland final replay victory over Tipperary, the only member of the retired sextet to be chosen in Cody's starting team was J.J. Delaney.
And not that Delaney doesn't leave legendary shoes to fill, but in Joey Holden, Cody has a player who has already won an All-Ireland there this year with Ballyhale Shamrocks and possesses all the necessary physical and hurling faculties to crack it at senior level.
If he prefers, Cody could simply move the cool-headed, sharp-touch, sweet-striking Paul Murphy from number two to number three, presenting him with two viable replacements for the man he described as "the greatest defender ever."
Certainly though, Kilkenny's depth of strength has taken a sharp blow over the winter and they won't be so spectacularly well equipped to deal with injuries as they once were.
Richie Power is one such worry with a knee injury while Michael Fennelly's description of the back condition through which he plays doesn't seem like having any happy long term ending.
But as a team, Kilkenny remain as smart a bet for this year's All-Ireland as any.
So that's Kilkenny.
We have, by virtue of their win over Westmeath in the last round, already seen more of Wexford this summer than Kilkenny but in another way, we've seen very little.
Clearly, Liam Dunne's men showed nothing of themselves in winning that match and it was clear that Nowlan Park and tomorrow and Kilkenny has occupied the forefront of their thought process for some time.
Jack Guiney's breach of discipline is ill-timed.
A strong fielder and excellent score-taker, Wexford need him and everything else they have to turn Kilkenny over here.
They have quick, gamey forwards too and if Wexford Park was the venue, rather than Nowlan Park, you'd nearly be swayed by the Wexford argument.
Nearly. But not quite.
ODDS: Kilkenny 1/4, Draw 12/1, Wexford 10/3
leinster shc semi-finals