Is Kilkenny hurling in dire straits? They’ve now gone three years without winning a Leinster title under Brian Cody, the first time under his managerial tenure. Is it hitting crisis point?
But, then on the other side of the coin, Wexford won their first title in 15 years. I’ve always said that hurling needs Wexford being competitive and winning tournaments.
There was a big outpouring of emotion from all the hurling fraternity across the country last Sunday after Wexford’s victory. It’s good for the game.
That’s as good as Wexford have played since Davy Fitzgerald went in there. They had to be that good to get rid of Kilkenny. They were put right to the pin of their collar.
There were 29 scores alone in the first half and Kilkenny went in up a point. That was a great turnaround for a game of that magnitude, because albeit the hurling wasn’t great.
The ferociousness of the contest was what was drawing people to the spectacle of the game.
Kilkenny were in the game for of long periods. Obviously, the deciding factor was the goal. The Cats didn’t do a whole pile wrong. But, could they do things better? They probably could.
Wexford just got the break. They got the goal and whoever got it, a goal was always going to be the deciding factor – especially in a close game like that, where it was point for point. There was very little between them all the way through.
Wexford take a three-point lead over Kilkenny thanks to a beautifully placed penalty from Mark Fanning. Watch live on @RTE2 now, highlights on The Sunday Game tonight at 9.30pm #rtegaa #WEXKIK pic.twitter.com/UY3OkcbVU2
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) June 30, 2019
No big prize just yet for The Yellowbellies
Wexford are probably still a bit short to win the All-Ireland just yet.
I’d love to say they are contenders. But, I don’t believe they’re the finished article at the moment.
There’s quite a number of young lads who need to develop a small bit more before you can really take them seriously as contenders.
Will they cause someone massive problems, will they put up a serious fight in an All-Ireland semi-final? Absolutely. Have no doubt in your mind.
But, they probably just lacking a little to be genuine All-Ireland contenders at the moment.
Chin and co stepped up when it matters
For Wexford to win that title last Sunday, they needed the big players to stand up and be counted.
Lee Chin probably had his best 70 minutes in a Wexford shirt. He was unerring, his work rate, his energy and his physicality was fantastic. He dominated anyone he came across in all aspects of the game.
The win wasn’t just about Lee Chin though. Liam Ryan dominated Colin Fennelly for long periods of the game.
Conor McDonald scored four points in play, you can look back and say Huw Lawlor actually had a good game on him for Kilkenny, and he did. But, Conor McDonald still got four points. Shaun Murphy was excellent on the ball too.
I was talking to Donal Óg Cusack about Rory O’Conner recently too, and we reckon that this guy is an absolute superstar in the making. I’m not going to blow him up. But, he got four points from play in his first Leinster Final. It was an exhibition of point scoring.
Wexford had a lot of their players play very well. They were rewarded for their bravery after putting more into the attacking side. They pushed a small bit more forward and they got the rewards from it.
Leaders missing for Kilkenny
Kilkenny are certainly lacking leaders at the moment. Look at what happened with 68 minutes gone on the clock. There was three minutes of injury time. That’s five minutes of extra play they had from there. But, Kilkenny started going for goals. They were looking to drop the ball in short.
The Kilkenny team of old would always have known the opportunities will come.
You have to keep tapping the ball over the bar. That’s where experience comes in, that’s where game management comes in.
When it came to the critical point, when they needed someone to manage the game on the field for them, they found themselves forcing the issue constantly.
They could have actually gained a draw if they had put a couple of the 65s and frees over the bar.
Davy and the game need each other
Davy Fitzgerald is a colourful character, but the game needs Davy and Davy needs the game.
He’s absolutely great for the hurling. We need guys like that.
We need lads who wear their heart on their sleeve and who are not afraid to show emotion. Davy’s one of them those people.
It would be one of the great managerial feats because Wexford are probably still in transition.
They’re bringing in some of the younger, fresher players all the time. It would be a massive, massive coup if they won the All-Ireland, but I just still feel they’re short a bit.
What Davy does gets lost in translation because of who he is. Davy is the Wexford manager and his only job is to win games.
You can only play with the hand of cards you’re dealt with. These players are Davy’s hand of cards, and he knows this is how he’s going to get the most out of them. There were little tweaks in the game on Sunday that fellas wouldn’t have seen because they were watching Davy.
He’s constantly tweaking it and he has a good hurling brain. There is a sheer will to win that he can put into a group, because it wasn’t skill that won Wexford the game. It was just sheer will and determination. If you go back 10 years ago, would Kilkenny have dominated in the physical exchanges? No way, but they were by Wexford on Sunday.
He’s won an All-Ireland title, he’s won the Munster title, Leinster title, a National League and the Fitzgibbon.
I suppose to rank him as one of the greats I think he’d have to get another couple of All-Ireland titles to his belt – to add his list of already growing honours. Ultimately that’s what he will be judged on.