"I think there are a lot of positive signs for Kilkenny hurling"

Despite successive defeats, Jamesie O'Connor thinks Brian Cody has much to work with

BY Stephen Long 10:42 Tuesday 6 February 2018, 10:42 6 Feb 2018

Brian Cody watches on during their Allianz Hurling League defeat to Cork ©INPHO/James Crombie

These are uncharted waters for many Kilkenny hurling fans.

After their earliest exit from the Championship in the Brian Cody era last July, the Cats have begun 2018 with two straight league defeats with only points difference separating them from the foot of Division 1A in the Allianz Hurling league.

While a period of transition has long been expected in the Marble County, the loss of some key personnel has done little to ease some fan's fears that this could be a tough spring for the side.

All-Star duo Colin Fennelly and Paul Murphy are not expected to return from overseas army duty until at least April, while Hurler of the Year winners TJ Reid and Richie Hogan have had their struggles with injury. While Reid is in line to return against Waterford on Sunday week, there's no such timescale for Hogan as he recovers from a long-term back complaint.

Kilkenny's Bill Sheehan and Clare's Jack Browne in action during Sunday's Allianz Hurling League clash at Nowlan Park. ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

That coupled with the retirement of the influential Michael Fennelly in the winter has led to many thinking Kilkenny may not be the force they once were.

However speaking on this morning's OTB AM, Clare hurler turned pundit Jamesie O'Connor wouldn't be drawn into any 'doomsday' scenarios for the team, instead believing their first two outings has offered Cody plenty of encouragement.

"When you look at how Clare had practically 12 or 13 of their likely Championship 15, Kilkenny still have an awful lot of good quality players to come back", he said. "I think there are a lot of positives signs for Kilkenny, these guys just need time. You don't become an inter-county hurler physically or strength-wise overnight so it's going to take time, and they have the right management team behind them.

When asked about their style of play and how it compares to the Kilkenny sides of old, O'Connor explained that would come in the months and years ahead.

"Walter Walsh did a lot of good things at full-forward against Cork. I thought he showed well for the ball, and he gives them that outlet where they can go long and go direct. But at the same time they've got that running style and short pass if it's on. They're probably not as direct as they once were, but they've got good players and good players make good decisions on the ball."

O'Connor was speaking on OTB AM, Ireland's sports breakfast show, and you can watch this morning's show in full below.

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