Antrim boss Darren Gleeson wasn’t in the least bit surprised as the rest of the hurling world tried to take stock of his team’s 1-21 to 0-22 win over Clare in their Division One Group B NHL opener in Belfast. 

Ciaran Clarke’s goal made all the difference in a game that caused a lot of head-scratching across the country, not least back in Clare.

But Gleeson insisted, “We have a foundation laid within the group and we have to try and push on now and establish ourselves -- one win won’t do that for us. It means we have two points on the board and we go again next week with a bit of confidence to the standard-bearers over the last 20 years. Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. The boys will be looking forward to it.

“It was a massive performance. I don’t want to talk about individuals. We had 19 guys who took to the field and they all contributed massively. Ciaran Clarke done his job and was there to finish it.

“The defense was there to get the ball up to him, so everybody held up their end of the bargain. At the end you can’t beat seeing the bodies and the hurleys flying in. Every game is an opportunity to go out and represent your county. The county jersey is important and I think we have instilled that again.”

Kilkenny boss Brian Cody, now into his 23rd season in charge, was just delighted to be back on the pitch as he reflected on his team’s 1-20 to 0-18 win over Dublin at Parnell Park.

“We’re back out on the field, we’re hurling. It’s just great to be out there,” said Cody. “It was the first game after being out for so long. Everybody was wondering what the hurling would be like. Great credit to the lads, to the physical trainer and physios, the way they came back in such good shape.”

“Physically they lasted the pace fairly well, and their hurling was decent. But the thing I liked most was the attitude. Top class I thought.”

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald was none too impressed with the new advantage rule that encourages referees to stop open play for frees as soon as a foul is committed, in his team’s 4-17 to 0-10 win over Laois at Wexford Park. 

“I need to see more of it. The most important thing for me is that the game is allowed to flow,” Fitzgerald told RTE.

“If there’s a clear-cut goal chance, then I agree with that (rule change), it has to be punished. I don’t want to see a game with 40-plus frees in it. Maybe the heads of Croke Park might not agree with that. If there is a game with 40-plus frees, it is going to be an absolute disaster for people to watch.

“If you keep stopping the game, we’re in trouble. It’s a manly game, let’s get out there and play.”

*This column first appeared in the May 12 edition of the Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.

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