/ GAA

Kilkenny warming to league challenge as Cork look to avoid relegation play-off

Updated: Sunday, 31 Mar 2013 11:41 | Comments

Kilkenny lost their first two matches
Kilkenny lost their first two matches

By Rory Houston

Kilkenny and Cork face off in another make-or-break clash in the Allianz Hurling League.

The Rebels fought back to earn a point against Galway in their last match but know a win is vital to avoid the relegation play-off and it can help secure a semi-final spot.

There are four changes to their team that started the drawn game against Galway and that has been the story for much of the league.

Jimmy Barry Murphy has brought a new look and feeling to this Cork team and he will see more options available to him against the Cats, including a move for Patrick Cronin to midfield.

Lorcán McLoughlin slots in at wing back, while Stephen White replaces the injured William Egan, who sustained damage to a finger in the Galway match, but fortunately scans have shown no serious damage.

Daniel Kearney comes back in to partner Cronin in the middle of the park.

Stephen Moylan replaces Adrian Mannix in another change from the Galway game, while Stephen McDonnell and Jamie Coughlan remain on the sidelines because of injury.

The league started off on a fantastic note for Cork as they hammered Tipperary but it has been a case of slowly building since.

Two draws have left them with an opportunity on Sunday against Kilkenny but whether they can rediscover the groove they found against the Premier that saw 0-26 scored on the night remains to be seen.

Kilkenny looked in big trouble after two losses but as always they took it in their stride and have warmed to the task nicely.

While much was made of Clare’s wide tally and an opportunity lost against the Cats, it was another battling win for Brian Cody’s men and the return of Michael Rice was another boost.

There are more returning stars to the Cats side forthcoming, and Kieran Joyce and Ger Aylward's development will please Cody with bigger days ahead.

Cody told the Kilkenny People that his players had to dig deep to establish this position ahead of the final set of games: “If we win next Sunday - and it'll be a huge task to win - we could make the semi-finals.

"We're getting an opportunity. Our panel is being tested seriously. Our backs were to the wall so it was essential that we came out and beat Waterford and Clare.

"It was going to be tough to beat both of them, but we've done that. Now we'll see where we can go from here."

With home advantage and improving performances, that semi-final place should be Kilkenny’s.

Verdict: Kilkenny

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