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Cats Get A Kick Out Of Only Goal

by Jimmy Rhatigan

Pics by Donal Foley

Liverpool soccer goalkeeper Alisson Becker earned world headlines when he grabbed a sensational winner against West Brom, a goal that helped to win the ‘Pool a Champions’ League top four spot.
It was a case of what’s seldom is wonderful and Kop fans all over the globe acknowledged the rare but sensational feat by a player with a cool head.
At UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny today, Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy performed a brace of heroics to help his team to a deserved league victory over visitors Laois.
The only difference between the superb achievements of two magnificent ‘keepers in different sports is that Kilkenny’s Eoin is used to bringing off world class hurling stops.
Experts at the Bank Holiday game played on a billiard table-like surface will no doubt come up with reams of statistics why the game that brought Kilkenny’s fourth successive victory was good, bad and indifferent all wrapped in one.
For Kilkenny Press, statistics that deserve today’s headlines are Eoin Murphy’s Herculean-like saves in the 62nd and 67th minutes.

Both were wonder stops that certainly put a halt to any late, late smash and grab notions that Laois may have had.
Eoin put a spanner in the works of a threatening Laois move when he bravely dived to block a possible goal.
His second dagger into the hearts of an improving Laois came three minutes from time when he stopped what the young lads in Fatima Place once called a rasper from PJ Scully with a fantastic reaction save.
Had Laois grabbed the first score, a goal would have brought them to within four points of the Cats.
The save did not do as much damage to any possible Laois recovery as the clock would have been an enemy anyway.
The irony is that Laois could have made life more difficult from impressively lively Kilkenny while the only goal of the game was a somewhat scrappy affair by the battling Liam Blanchfield who fluffed his attempted pull on the ball but reacted smartly to kick the sliotar to the net.

A football kick was the lone score of a hurling decider.
Again our friends, the statisticians will no doubt note that Kilkenny never really threatened to score a second goal.
They may also give their views on why the Cats may have no worries about relying on those who might be loosely termed peripheral players, stars of the future perhaps.
For whatever reason, Kilkenny launched many long range aerial missiles into the Laois defence but the rearguard was next door to impregnable.
Both of today’s squads may just be put through shooting routines in training this week as missed scoring chances were commonplace.
Inaccurate passing may also be high on any training agenda.
As black and amber supporters delight on the sweet dead ball striking skills of Eoin Cody, great moves by dampened by short spells of uncertainty, they can focus on many pleasing statistics of the league campaign.
The latter include impressive wins over Dublin, Antrim, Wexford and Laois.

With an away game against Clare still to come, the focus will then be on the All-Ireland Championsship which will bring a Leinster semi-final against the winners of Laois and Wexford.
This is the one that will begin to separate the men from the boys on the teams of all championship contenders.
The Cats’ credentials are top class and the great hurling fire is still in their bellies.
Anyone betting on Wexford to beat Laois and then be ambushed by marauding Cats?
Slip down to Paddy Power and do yourselves a favour.
But don’t blame us if the O’Moore County versus the Wexicans turns out to be a banana skin for the strawberries.
Farmers are busy saving hay, a sunny summer is forecast and the hurling championship is about to explode into action.
And, most important of all, TJ and the boys are eying Liam MacCarthy.
We may have to suffer useless politicians but our spectacular hurlers can make it a summer to cherish.
That would be Heaven on Earth particularly with the return to games of supporters who crave to be part of any great hurling journey.

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