The only problem with throwing a party like this is that you don’t get to have the final say over the guest list.
This was Carlow’s first time opening their doors to the Leinster hurling championship’s round robin but Kilkenny have never been the sort of callers to blend into thewallpaper and adhere politely to their hosts’ wishes.
The one previous meeting of these counties in provincial competition had served ample warning of that with an 18-point margin separating them at this ground in a semi-final back in 1993.
The visitors were at their usual game here: No sooner in the door than throwing their weight around and making everyone uncomfortable.
Colin Fennelly had the first goal bagged by then and another thwarted soon after. Less than eight minutes later and Ger Aylward had another.
A third arrived on the half-hour when TJ Reid smacked a penalty beyond Brian Tracey.
Add in seven points and a wide total already into double digits in the 20th minute and Carlow were staring at a mess of monumental proportions.
Manager Colm Bonnar would later blame the occasion when putting that costly spell into perspective and it’s hard to argue otherwise given the free reign Kilkenny enjoyed through most of the first half.
Carlow were second best to ball after ball at both ends of the pitch. Their own attacks — for want of a better word — were routinely snuffed out on the half-back line and their defence was miles off what was required.
TJ Reid was imperious at times but it beggared belief how often the Ballyhale Shamrocks dangerman collected possession without a Carlow jersey or hurley in anything like close proximity.
Words like ‘fight’ and ‘intensity’ can be bandied around with an abandon that makes them meaningless at times but such traits are basics to elite sport and Carlow appeared for all the world like a side treading on eggshells.
Stage fright. The jitters. Nerves. Call it what you will, it killed them.
“We got a good start which settled things for us,” said Brian Cody.
“Obviously Carlow came back into it strong and with ten minutes to go you think you are in a decent position but up to that you couldn’t say we were totally comfortable.” Don’t believe a word of that.
The final margin of victory was always at the whim of the Cats.
They led by 3-9 to 0-3 at the interval and, with Dublin beaten the weekend before, their passage through to a Leinster decider and All-Ireland series is all but secured.
“That was the object of the exercise,” said Cody. “I said the whole time that the only thing in our mind up to last Sunday was play Dublin and try and win that match and after that we had to try and win today.”
Carlow did begin to find their feet as the first half approached an end but they shot short and wide as they did.
It was only after their noticeably long stint in the dressing-room at half-time that they managed to do themselves some justice.
A return of 1-5 to a single Kilkenny point in the first 12 minutes of the second-half was their apex, corner-forward James Doyle catching a botched Marty Kavanagh free and swivelling a shot to the net after 47 minutes.
It was a respite, nothing more, but one they badly needed.
Kilkenny would temper any fanciful thoughts of a Hollywood twist with five of the next six points and the last quarter resembled something of a gentlemen’s agreement with points shared more or less equally.
This was about as routine as the hurling championship gets. Any concerns that arose for Kilkenny were in the medical department.
Fennelly limped off after 27 minutes, Walter Walsh didn’t appear after the break, and Alan Murphy failed to finish.
Cody classed Fennelly’s issue as a hamstring tweak, Walsh’s replacement during the interval as a precaution after a slight strain suffered the week before and Murphy’s as an ankle problem.
None sounds overly serious and Kilkenny could clearly do without further headaches in that area given the litany of injury issues that have dogged the squad in the last number of months.
Next up for Kilkenny is Galway in Nowlan Park but that’s in three weeks’ time and, with that gap in mind, the decision has been made to fit in a full raft of club fixtures in the coming days.
Cody will surely hope his phone remains silent in the aftermath.
“Everyone talks about the injuries but we don’t talk about the injuries.
“We have a panel of players and, as I’m saying the whole time, we are still picking from a position of strength as far as I’m concerned.
“There is good quality on the bench as well so its not a question of who we don’t have its a question of who we have.”
Scorers for Kilkenny:
TJ Reid (1-12, 1-0 pen, 1 ‘65’, 7 frees); G Aylward (1-1); C Fennelly 1-1); A Murphy and J Donnelly (both 0-2); A Mullen, W Walsh, B Ryan and R Leahy (all 0-1).
B Tracey; K McDonald, P Doyle, M Doyle; R Coady, D English, E Nolan; J Kavanagh, S Whelan; JM Nolan, M Kavanagh, E Byrne; J Doyle, S Murphy, C Nolan.
A Corcoran for P Doyle (HT); T Joyce for Byrne (50); J Murphy for Whelan (64); D Byrne for J Kavanagh (66); R Smithers for J Doyle (69).
D Brennan; P Murphy, H Lawlor, T Walsh; C Fogarty, P Walsh, P Deegan; A Murphy, R Leahy; A Mullen, W Walsh, TJ Reid; B Sheehan, C Fennelly, G Aylward.
L Blanchfield for Fennelly (27); J Donnelly for Walsh (HT); B Ryan for Aylward (50); J Cleere for Deegan (54); M Keoghan for Leahy (62).
A Kelly (Galway).
GAA podcast: Dalo was wrong. Emotional Cork. Limerick's Plan B? Tipp back it up. Ref justice
Anthony Daly, Ger Cunningham and TJ Ryan review the weekend's hurling.