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All Ireland Hurling Championship: Awesome Kilkenny can be the greatest ever

By John Campbell

Kilkenny will go down as the greatest hurling team in history if they overcome Tipperary in tomorrow’s All-Ireland final at Croke Park.

Brian Cody’s side are seeking their fifth title on the trot — a feat that would assure both manager and players of immortality within the sport.

Yet the allure of what would be viewed as a truly phenomenal feat is not in itself the primary spur as far as the fiercely driven Cody is concerned.

“We want to win this All-Ireland title to prove that we are the best this year. We are not really bothered by statistics and records. We just want to keep challenging ourselves and while there is obviously talk about five-in-a-row, we like to think of this as a one-off — that way we will be even more focused,” insists Cody.

His team has set new standards in hurling and such is their dominance of the sport that even though Tipperary ran them very close in last year’s final and have already recorded handsome victories over Galway and Waterford in the quarter-final and semi-finals they are still very much the underdogs tomorrow.

But their manager Liam Sheedy is not too perturbed that his side’s prospects are being downplayed.

“Kilkenny’s four titles on the bounce just has to put them into pole position — we’ve no problem with that,” maintains Sheedy.

He has named an unchanged team which means that Paul Curran and Conor O’Mahoney will once again be the central defensive planks with Brendan Maher and Shane McGrath forming the midfield. Their brief will be to supply an attack which contains accurate finishers in Eoin Kelly, John O’Brien and Lar Corbett.

If there is still some doubt about Henry Shefflin’s ability to start the game following his knee injury, then Cats boss Cody has more than ample resources at his disposal to compensate for the possible absence of his sharpshooter.

Tommy Walsh and J J Delaney will again underpin the defence, Michael Fennelly has been a revelation at midfield this year and up front Eddie Brennan, Richie Power and Eoin Larkin will pose a massive threat to the Tipperary rearguard.

Yet 12 of the Tipperary side that started last year’s final are in action again tomorrow with Michael Cahill, Gearóid Ryan and Patrick Maher the new faces to be included.

James Woodlock, Pat Kerwick and Seamus Callinan are the players who miss out. Manager Sheedy believes that this solid base of experience will stand to his side when the heat is on.

But the force would appear to be very much with the Cats who are poised to take their place in the annals of GAA history.

TIPPERARY: B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; D Fanning, C O'Mahony, P Maher; B Maher, S McGrath; G Ryan, P Maher, J O'Brien; N McGrath, E Kelly, L Corbett.

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