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Kilkenny keyed up for Dublin revenge mission

When Dublin beat Kilkenny in the Allianz Hurling League final recently it was regarded as a seismic shock within a sport where over recent years just three teams at most have been viewed as viable contenders for the major trophies.

Nor was it the fact that the Dubs jettisoned the status quo that stunned hurling - rather it was their 12-point victory over a Cats side that had been deemed favourites to lift the league crown.

Yet while Dublin ended six decades of league famine in spectacular style on that occasion they will face an even bigger test tomorrow when they renew their rivalry with Brian Cody's side in the Leinster final at Croke Park.

Many followers take the view that Kilkenny were not quite at concert pitch in the league and to some extent this has served to detract from Dublin's achievement.

The sound bites from the Kilkenny camp suggest that Dublin will be stretched to the limit tomorrow to make the provincial breakthrough they so earnestly desire.

Cats manager Brian Cody (pictured), whose side were beaten in last year's All-Ireland final by Tipperary, is seeking not just another Leinster crown but confirmation that his players retain the necessary hunger to reclaim the Liam McCarthy Cup.

Since the league final his side have played just one game, the provincial semi-final against old rivals Wexford which they won comfortably.

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Tomorrow, Kilkenny's amalgam of veterans and younger foot-soldiers will be expected to pose a stiff examination for a Dubs outfit which contains considerable scoring power in Paul Ryan, Liam Rushe, David O'Callaghan, Conal Keaney and Alan McCrabbe, but which has been hit by injuries.

The Cats defence, in which J J Delaney, Tommy Walsh and Noel Hickey continue to be key figures, will offer much more resistance this time while Michael Rice, James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick and Richie Hogan all have key roles.

While Dublin boss Anthony Daly has not been wringing his hands in frustration because of the injuries which have blighted the build-up, he would nonetheless liked to have had a full hand from which to deal.

League success tends to be regarded as a temporary bonus but claiming major scalps in a championship environment is indicative of a team's maturity, belief and ambition.

While Dublin will strive to underline this tomorrow, they may be forced to bow to experience, craft and clinical finishing.


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