Editor’s note: John Mullane is the Brand Ambassador for JJ Kavanagh & Sons and will be bringing his thoughts on this years Allianz League & Hurling Championship games.
Where do you think the game was won by Kilkenny?
This Kilkenny team were hungrier and more eager to win this game and wanted to make a statement to the large crowd in Walsh Park. A statement which proves Kilkenny will still be a force to reckon with come the Summer. Their half forward line of TJ Reid, Martin Keoghan, and Pat Lyng set the tone from the off. Kilkenny were also very strong down the middle. Killian Buckley, TJ Reid, and Walter Walsh leading the lines throughout the seventy odd minutes.
Name your player/players of the game?
Killian Buckley was a tour de force at number six and saw off numerous markers. TJ Reid scored 1-11 in the match and produced massive scores when Kilkenny needed them. Walter Walsh also created big problems for Waterford’s backline as he interchanged positions with TJ Reid at number 11 and 14 during the game. The two wings forwards Keoghan and Pat Lyng did an enormous amount of work but for me, my player of the game was Martin Keoghan. He scored five points from play, an Eoin Larkin type player as he covers a huge amount of ground. This is exactly the player the ‘Cats’ need for this coming championship season.
What were Waterford’s highlights from the game?
For me, the main highlight was the return of Tom Devine. That’s probably the most pleasing thing that the Waterford management will take out of Sunday’s game. This is something that they can work on moving forward.
It has been Waterford’s poorest Allianz league start in a number of years. What do you think this is down to?
They went on a team holiday after Christmas and there has been a lot of teams in the league back training before them. The one thing that stands out for me though is the venue. Take away the Tipperary game which was always going to be a tough assignment against a top class side, Waterford haven’t registered any points from their home games since February 2016. This is a worrying stat for Derek. Both the Wexford and Kilkenny games were winnable matches and it’s a worry moving forward for the Summer as we may play two matches in Walsh Park against Cork and Tipp. You would wonder does Walsh Park suit the type of game that this Waterford team likes to play?
It’s very obvious that this hurling league isn’t a top priority for Waterford as it has been in previous years. I suppose only time will tell come May or June whether it was the right decision to go for the League or not!
Where will Waterford need to improve if they are to overcome Cork next weekend?
Waterford have to produce a better performance than their first three games in the league. Their score ratio is very low from play up front. It’s still only February but if you take out Pauraic Mahony’s frees out of Waterford’s final scoring tally, it doesn’t stand for a pretty reading. This will concern Derek McGrath and his management team. They will be looking for a better return moving forward starting next Sunday against Cork. This Waterford team need to start winning games and need to get Shane Bennett back into the side. He is a massive loss and the sooner he is back the better. He is a crucial player and brings a lot to the setup up front!
Do you think Kilkenny will keep the momentum heading into the Tipperary game?
I really liked what I’ve seen over the course of the weekend by both Tipp and Kilkenny. Tipp and Clare are probably the stand out teams at the moment and I feel if Kilkenny can bring to the table what they brought to Walsh Park were in for another February cracker in Nowlan Park next Sunday. Next weekend is also the Fitzgibbon Cup Final and both teams will be down personnel for the game. This will have a major baring on the result of this game.