Kilkenny legend DJ Carey looks ahead to the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final on Saturday evening
It’s the first time, realistically, in many years that we potentially have a fascinating battle on our hands between Kilkenny and Wexford.
First of all, it’s a home game for Wexford, which they last had six years ago as well against Kilkenny, but Wexford weren’t in the same place as they are now. Back then, they were capable of giving a good account of themselves for a certain period of time, and that was it.
Now, they have a team hurling well, with massive support behind them, on the back of a great run in the league and, of course, the Davy Fitz factor.
Everywhere he goes, Davy brings enthusiasm, total commitment and energy. But you need to have the players, and they have to react, and that’s exactly what’s happened. And along with that, the supporters have rowed in behind them, so that puts Wexford in a very strong place at the moment.
On the other side, Kilkenny have shown very up and down form this season. One of the best displays they gave was against Tipperary, who are now struggling. Obviously, I think Kilkenny will be an awful lot better when it comes to the championship, so that’s why this semi-final is a very hard one to call.
Kilkenny have built a lot of All-Ireland wins on the back of how they performed in the league; in other words, finding two or three new players and going on to win the title. Players always wanted to prove something to the manager and nail down their place in the championship.
That hasn’t happened this year, there’s been a few injuries, a few lads not in form. Under no circumstances did Kilkenny not take the league seriously and, above all, not take the Wexford game seriously. It would have hurt them being beaten in the quarter-final, especially in Nowlan Park.
I do believe and think it would be unfair if I didn’t say it, Wexford came with tactics to that game; Kilkenny went to win the game from 1 to 15.
Wexford will play a similar type of game on Saturday, but Kilkenny will have worked on a game plan. It will be a different tactical game – that’s not to say the result won’t be the same, because it’s not a game Kilkenny are used to playing.
The one thing that has happened in Kilkenny over the past few years – and it’s the same in every county – is you don’t hear anything from inside the camp anymore. Even meeting players, you don’t ask because they don’t want to divulge anything. But, obviously, I know Ger Aylward and Michael Fennelly have played club matches, and are in line for a place. On the other hand, Padraig Walsh will be a huge loss, because he was working well.
Wexford already have a championship win under their belts, but I’m not sure how big of a benefit it was. It was a game they won easily and, with all due respects to Laois, Wexford have been focusing on Kilkenny for a long time now.
I suppose, though, I’ve never gone against Kilkenny in my life. I think they will win but that it will be very close. That’s what the heart says – the head is very conflicted!