Kilkenny were defeated by Limerick in the All-Ireland U-21 final on Saturday afternoon, as the Treaty had too much class in Semple Stadium.
The Cats bounced back from a disappointing 2016 season at the grade to claim the Leinster title.
They avenged their loss to Westmeath, as well as picking up wins against Dublin and Westmeath.
After putting Derry to the sword in the semi-final, many fancied Eddie Brennan’s outfit to cause a big upset.
However, aided by a first-half wind, the Munster side burst out in front and didn’t look back to claim their second title in three years.
Writing in his Star column today, Ger Loughnane didn’t have huge praise for the Cats. The senior side were off the mark in 2017, losing to Wexford in the Leinster Championship before being knocked out by Waterford in the qualifiers. There is a sense that they are in need of an injection of young talent, but Loughnane has reservations as to whether the production line is properly functioning.
“By now, even Brian Cody realises that time waits for no-one. The golden era is over and young recruits are not only needed but vital if Kilkenny are to be serious challengers in 2018.
“As he looked on last Saturday, even Cody must have reservations about staying on as manager. This was the worst display by a Kilkenny underage team since this very side was hammered by Dublin at Nowlan Park in the first round of the minor three years ago.”
Loughnane went on to suggest that there isn’t much coming through, and there is little reason for hope amongst Cats supporters.
“Such a lack of pace. So little finesse. An unusual lack of physicality. And not a forward of any potential in sight. Four points from play in a final must be unprecedented for a Kilkenny U21 team. And more discouragingly, those who were seen to have serious potential beforehand – Richie Leahy, Johnny Walsh, Sean Morrissey, Shane Walsh and Billy Ryan – were all taken off.
“I have never seen a Kilkenny team in a final with so many agricultural hurlers, which begs the question of course, ‘how did they get so far?’
“The answer being that the standard in Leinster was brutal this year and they beat no-one of any substance along the way.”
Kilkenny now head into the winter empty-handed as far as All-Ireland titles are concerned. Having dominated the hurling landscape since 2000, the Cats may now be set for a barren spell, as the likes of Galway, Tipperary, Waterford and Cork seem to be the frontrunners for All-Ireland titles in the coming years.
However, Brian Cody and Kilkenny have bounced back in the past when written off, notably in 2011 and 2014.
If Cody were to turn things around and reclaim the Liam MacCarthy Cup with this group, it would undoubtedly go down as his finest achievement.
The full column is available in today’s print copy of the Irish Daily Star and is well worth a read.