By Kevin Regan
This Saturday sees Kilkenny in action against Dublin in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship Semi Final at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
Here are just five of the many big talking points which have been doing the rounds ahead of the clash.
1. Will There Be A Kilkenny Backlash
The 18th of April seems a long time ago now, but that’s the last time we saw the Cats in competitive action. That 4-22 to 2-19 defeat to Clare in the National League Semi Final hurt deeply.
The manner in which Kilkenny were outplayed was most frustrating and the question now is how will they react on Saturday. Any time questions have been asked of Brian Cody’s charges before have always been answered emphatically.
2. The Loss Of Richie Hogan
Richie Hogan has been instrumental for Kilkenny over the past few seasons.
The Danesfort clubman, who was Hurler of the year in 2014 will miss Saturday’s game due to a hand injury, and his loss is almost insurmountable.
It’s essential that Kilkenny pull tighter together in his absence in order to get back in to the Leinster decider.
3. Will Dublin’s Opening Championship Game Stand To Them
It may have been a walk in the park, but Dublin have already got a championship game under their belt with a comfortable win over Wexford.
Kilkenny on the other hand have had a long lay off and there are two ways of looking at this scenario.
If Dublin lose then people will say the Wexford game was a hindrance, but if they win then it could be seen as a help.
One thing for sure its that Dublin will have to play to a similar level that they did in their 2013 replay win over the Cats at the same stage.
4. TJ Reid
Between injuries and retirements its fair to say that the Kilkenny squad has taken a big hit in recent years.
2015 Hurler of The Year TJ Reid is the man whom the torch has been passed on to and boy has he carried it with pride.
More often than not this year and indeed the last few years, the Ballyhale man has been the go to man for scores and his ability to win his own ball is second to none.
Much will rest on his shoulders on Saturday and if he’s on song then expect Kilkenny to win.
5. Have Kilkenny Shored Things Up At The Back
At times during the league Kilkenny were carved open at the back.
This was obviously most evident in the League Semi Final Loss to Clare when they shipped Four goals.
During that game Kilkenny’s defence was pulled and dragged all over the place which was very worrying.
If Kilkenny allow this to happen against Dublin then they will be punished accordingly as the Metropolitans have very quick forwards, so it’s essential that the Cats batten down the hatches come Saturday.