Leinster championship never as open with Cats and Galway depleted 3 months ago

Leinster championship never as open with Cats and Galway depleted

It's when you don't want your phone to ring that the thing goes wild.

Brian Cody's phone has been hopping this April.

His Kilkenny players weren't even a full session back with their clubs when the first call came.

First of all it was James Maher.

The unfortunate Freshford club man is one of the strongest, most battle hardened characters in the Kilkenny panel. A former international cross country runner, it was three years ago - just as he was establishing himself in the Kilkenny senior panel - that the midfielder was involved in a freak farmyard accident.

A broken knee-cap and a setback that would have floored many a 20-year-old, Maher came back even stronger.

He trained hard, worked harder and it wasn't long before he was back in the heart of it all. Kick starting Kilkenny attacks while nipping opposition drives in the bud.

Come the summer of 2018 he was one of the most prolific, industrious midfielders in Ireland and one of the most trusted members of Brian Cody's squad.

April 4, 2019, his first session back with St Llachtain's and the reaper came calling again. A broken leg or ankle, we already know how Maher's going to respond but this season is beyond even his reach.

That was only the start of it for Kilkenny though.

Cillian Buckley - their captain and plucky centre half back didn't improve for a winter off and he had to go under the knife for a nagging knee problem just over two months ago. That is expected to sideline him for many summer Sundays but he's not the only defender out.

Up and coming full back Conor Delaney showed well in the League but Brian Cody and indeed Padraig Walsh must have been cursing their luck when the next number three suffered a similar injury to Maher. Summer over before it even started.

When it rains it pours.

Then there's the constant Richie Hogan worries - the little dynamo hasn't lined out for Danesfort this April with his troublesome back still at him but if Kilkenny thought they were in the clear then, the county's final round of club games had other ideas.

Eoin Murphy has been Kilkenny's most consistent performer over the last few years and the news of the All-Star goalkeeper having to be taken off injured in the closing minutes of Glenmore's draw with Freshford was needed like a hole in Brian Cody's head.

Murphy - an outfielder for his club - had three points from play hit when he went down and though and the full prognosis is not yet known, it doesn't bode well with the Leinster championship only two and a half week away.

Hopefully it's not as bad as feared.

It's been a rough old club month for Brian Cody but at least he can trade bad luck stories with Micheal Donoghue.

The Galway manager is without Joe Canning for the whole of Leinster while Conor Cooney is also in bother. Not ideal for the Cats or the Tribesmen but contenders Wexford and Dublin must be licking their lips.

A door wide open

They didn't meet in the League due to Dublin's presence in Division One B but Dublin and Wexford would be considered to be on a similar level by many.

Dublin enjoyed an impressive League campaign under new manager Mattie Kenny - pushing Limerick as hard as anyone with Danny Sutcliffe, Eamonn Dillon and Eoghan O'Donnell roaring into form.

Rather than stalling after the progress made by Pat Gilroy, the Dubs have kicked on with Sean Moran excellent in defence and younger men like Rian McBride stepping up to the plate.

Their first outing is against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on Saturday May 11 and after coming so close this time last year, they'll be backing themselves to hound a vulnerable Kilkenny side.

Who knows where it could go from there?

Wexford meanwhile, blew hot and cold again in the League but you get the impression that this is Davy Fitzgerald's last shot at bull from the sunny south east and what a golden shot it is.

Davy Fitzgerald

In recent years, they've had Kilkenny's numbers but Galway have always had the upper hand. Diarmuid O'Keeffe is an injury doubt but if Lee Chin and Conor McDonald can hurl like we know they're able to, this is as good a chance as Wexford are going to get.

God knows Davy Fitzgerald will have them wired to the moon.

With Dublin at 5/1 and Wexford at 13/2, both of those sides are surely worth a tipple.