Kilkenny recommence their league campaign in Portlaoise on Sunday afternoon.
The Cats will be hoping to respond to a six-point defeat against Tipperary when they take on another set of neighbours in the form of Laois at 2pm in O’Moore Park (Live on KCLR).
One man who has an insight into both counties is Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett.
The Portlaoise clubman had two spells in charge of his native county from 2012-2015 and his return in 2020 came to an end last year after Laois exited the Leinster championship.
A memorable and successful figure on the sidelines for more than a decade, Plunkett also had a spell in charge of James Stephens and has recently taken up the mantle as St Martin’s manager ahead of the 2023 club season on Noreside.
Speaking exclusively to KCLR’s Scoreline ahead of tomorrow’s game, the former O’Moore County boss gave his take on the challenge awaiting new Kilkenny manager Derek Lyng throughout the course of the league and the championship.
He began: “Derek (Lyng) has lots of advantages. He’s coming in having not just been with the U20 team, but actually being successful with them. That allows him the chance to blend players into the senior set-up who he knows are of a good standard.
“However, it is very difficult stepping into a senior job. Nothing prepares you for it because it is a huge step-up for managers as well. You have to get to know players and what makes them tick. You may have seen them on the pitch umpteen times but once you get into the job you have to understand what they’re about.
“If you’re changing the style of play, it’s very difficult to do that. So, Derek Lyng has a difficult job. He knows the players and that’s a big plus, but it certainly won’t be easy for him.”
While the St Martin’s boss admitted that Limerick remain the standard bearers as they pursue a fourth successive All-Ireland crown, Plunkett believes the Leinster champions can dethrone John Kiely’s side if they were to meet in the latter stages of this year’s championship.
“I think what makes Kilkenny great is that they always expect to win the All-Ireland and that will be no different this year,” he said.
“At the moment, Limerick are the best team. However, the margin of victory or defeat is very slim and if they were to be off their best or hampered by injuries Kilkenny will have a big chance when you consider how close they were to them in last year’s final.”
Plunkett also gave his take on the players at Lyng’s disposal as they look to compete on all fronts.
“Kilkenny have some good young players such as Billy Drennan, Gearoid Dunne, Cian Kenny and more which is always a good sign.
“Derek is looking at a lot of players who have done really well in club hurling in recent times and he’s giving them their opportunity.
“Paddy Mullen for instance is an interesting one because I think Kilkenny will miss Conor Browne’s graft and competitiveness to win the ball in the middle third of the pitch. I feel as though Mullen is a replacement for that type of player to win the dirty ball and mop up the play.
“He also has some brilliant players and experienced players to come back into the fold so he has an awful lot of things going for him, but he’ll just want to get a style of play implemented throughout the course of the league.”
You can catch the full interview with Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett from 5pm on Saturday on KCLR.
The former Laois manager discusses Kilkenny’s clash with his native county, the competitive nature of the Joe McDonagh Cup which features Carlow and David Herity’s Kildare side, Derek Lyng’s prospects as Kilkenny boss and his decision to return to management with St Martin’s.
Then, from 1.30pm on Sunday, we’ll be building up to Kilkenny’s game with Laois with eight-time All-Ireland winner Aidan Fogarty before we hand across to Adrian Ronan and two-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper and KCLR analyst Michael Walsh for full live commentary of the third-round tie.
KCLR is the only place where you can hear all of Kilkenny’s Allianz National Hurling League, Leinster championship and All-Ireland series games in 2023.