As someone who goes to matches and cares about how we are doing I don’t think we have got the most out of ourselves over the last two years.
We have gone a long way back since 2013.
Some things have to be acknowledged. The decline started before Ger Cunningham came in. We were poor in championship in 2014 bar a decent win over Wexford in the Leinster semi. Kilkenny + Tipp matches I never expected us to win but we neither did we raise a gallop or show any fight.
If we had Peter Kelly, Paul Schutte and Shane Durkin fit this year it would have made a massive difference. Add Cian O’Callaghan, Liam Rushe to that and you have five of a serious back line, with probably Shane Barrett, Eoin O’Donnell and Chris Crummey all fighting for a starting spot. If we get a free run of injuries next year, which was one of the main reasons why 2013 was better to all the other seasons under Daly, then we are going to have a very strong base on which to build a team. Our first choice back line would compare to anything else in the country.
If Danny Sutcliffe wants to play for Dublin whatever needs to be done to get him back needs to be done. That includes him and anyone else swallowing their pride. If TJ Reid or Richie Hogan took a year out Kilkenny would be up the creek. Danny didn’t have one of his better championships in 2015 but he is still by a country mile the best player we have for jerseys 8 to 15. We need him back and at full throttle - end of story.
Our problems are from midfield upwards. Johnny McCaffrey has an excellent year in fairness to him. He is not the quickest but he gets on way more ball and reads the game better than many of our pacier players. Unfortunately Darragh O’Connell is not up to standard. Danny + Shane Durkin if not required in the backs are our best options there probably.
Dotsy was our best forward in 2017 and we have to get another year out of him even if he only plays 50 minutes of matches.
Trollier is a great goal scorer once he gets the ball in the clear. His problems of first touch, weakness in the air and the awkwardness of his swing remain. The fear is always against a back who can match him for pace then his hurling will let him down. But for now despite all the question marks over the technical side of his game, based on scores got and particularly goals, which we have struggled to score in previous seasons, then he is a nailed on starter.
Mark Schutte - very good in 2015, but not great to say the least this season. I feel No 14 is his far and away his best position. Think Limerick in Croke Park in 2015, and even the Waterford match in Thurles he was very good through the middle.
Chris Bennett - looks like a serious player.
Niall McMorrow - some great games in 2016, but then others when you wouldn’t know if he was playing or not. Would benefit from having stronger players around him to win high balls.
David Treacy did ok in 2016, but I can hardly remember him scoring much from play. He needs to get another 20-30% out of himself because he has the ability to have a bigger impact.
The likes of Paul Ryan, Daire Plunkett, Fiontain McGib etc need to up their game at least 50% or they are only making up the numbers. Paul Ryan obviously has done it in the past and he seemed to get a bit of a raw deal this year on selection after the Tipp league match.
We have the making of a good team with everyone available. However we need everyone available and to stay injury free, because we may only have 15 to 18 players up to the job. But that is enough. Kilkenny have very few options this year outside their starting 15.
I don’t like the style of play and it doesn’t suit us. All the others who play a short passing or running style or gone out of the championship now bar Waterford. Teams like Clare who have more talent than us can’t make it work either. Too much needs to go right for you to win playing that passing style. Releasing the ball as quickly as possible down the pitch into space will give our forward line who are generally lighter than most a better chance of only contesting the ball in one on one situations.
If we were playing fast long ball hurling and really putting it up to teams but losing I could accept it no problem. But we aren’t, and some of the matches have been painful to watch in how our style of play gives us next to no chance of kicking on to win big matches in the last 10 minutes. We are falling apart by that stage as the pressure of trying to thread the eye of a needle with passes takes their toll when players tire in the latter stages of matches.
I don’t believe Cunningham will change his game plan, and for that reason I think we need to get a replacement in. I agree with some of the previous posters than Joe Fortune would be steady hand which is what we need. He has serious success under his belt at underage and I was always impressed with how his teams have played.