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Kilkenny know the drill, but Tipp set to prevail in showdown

Preview

By Declan Bogue

We are back here again. Tipperary and Kilkenny. The Premier and The Cats. The game to end all games, as we hear so often.

The best idiom used in connection with the outcome of this final came over the radio airwaves on Friday morning - there is no underdog.

Paddy Power has them at absolute evens. We wonder when the last time that happened?

After serving six seasons as a selector, we can see the traits Tipp manager Michael Ryan picked up. Their style has shifted from the bamboozling movement favoured by Eamonn O'Shea, back towards thoughts of stopping your opponent, which is only natural for a former defender. Add into that the continuing upward graph in their strength and conditioning after four years of working with Lukasz Kirszenstein, and you can see how they will not be found wanting in the physical exchanges.

But they have also recruited well in the forward line, with plenty expected from young Michael Breen, while they will toy with how and what to do with John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer.

As for Kilkenny, the panel might rail against it being said they are almost gauze-thin, but Brian Cody, their manager with the Mount Rushmore countenance, hasn't exactly doled out the playing minutes liberally.

One man who has emerged from the gloom to impress is Liam Blanchfield, but he does not offer the same massive physical intensity as the Achilles-stricken Michael Fennelly, cruelly cut down in full flow during that epic semi-final win over Waterford. Without him, Kilkenny are already into problem-solving mode for Sunday.

For all that, the Cats are bidding to pick up a three-in-a-row. Desensitised as we have become to Kilkenny winning streaks down the last couple of decades, it would still make a remarkable achievement. All the more so, that when Clare picked up an unlikely Liam MacCarthy in 2013, it was expected to unleash a tidal wave of new hurling traditions, with long-overdue All-Irelands for the likes of Waterford, Dublin and Limerick.

Kilkenny know the drill. But Tipp's need is greater.

Verdict: Tipperary

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