Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Balance is Tipp-ed in Kilkenny’s favour

Even the huge incentive of trying to bridge a 45-year gap by winning back to back National Hurling League titles once again is unlikely to boost Tipperary sufficiently to overcome Kilkenny in tomorrow’s decider at Clones (4.00pm).

Reigning All Ireland champions Kilkenny may have lost one match in the league but their form of late has been such that they are not only being tipped to emerge as league title-holders but are the hottest of favourites to retain the Liam McCarthy Cup — again!

With James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick (pictured), and Henry Shefflin back in the squad, manager Brian Cody has reason for even more confidence as his side prepare to confront a Tipperary team who, while having replicated the form to date that took them to the league crown last year, have tended to look vulnerable on occasions.

Kilkenny will be playing in their fifth league final of this decade and their awesome consistency has already ensured their place in hurling folklore.

Manager Cody is confronted by interesting selection options given the intense competition there is for places in the side.

It seems that Kilkenny have at least two very capable players to fill every position in their team and this is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for their continuing success.

Tipperary have had to work rather harder than their opponents to reach the decider and while their team undoubtedly includes several gifted players, the machine-like efficiency of Kilkenny should take them to another league honour.

The Division Two final between Wexford and Offaly will precede the Division One showdown (2.00pm).

Wexford lost just one game en route to the final, their conquerors being Antrim, and now John Meyler’s men confront an Offaly side that has emerged strongly in the closing stages of the league.

Brendan Murphy has been outstanding for Offaly of late and he could wield a big influence tomorrow.

Wexford manager Colm Bonnar has called for Division 1 to be expanded from eight to 10 teams, and claims next year's Division 2 final pairings are predictable. He also argues that tomorrow’s league decider is more important than the sides' Leinster SHC clash on May 30 as another season in Division 2 would do nothing for the losing team's development.

"We won four of our league games by an average of 20 points. That's no good for Wexford and teams we beat, even though they'd be using Wexford and Offaly as the measuring stick of where they're going," he said.

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